Men's Hoops Opens Pac-12 Play vs. Cougars Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
A DEC. 1 PAC-12 GAME?
The 2021-22 Sun Devil men's basketball squad (2-5) is in the middle stages of a solid gauntlet of early season games as it next takes on Washington State (5-1) in its Pac-12 opener on Wednesday, Dec. 1, at 5:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Network. It then travels to Eugene for a Sunday 4 p.m. PT tip against the Ducks on Dec. 5. ASU's first two losses were by three points total, losing on a 65-footer to UC Riverside (66-65 on Nov. 11) and a tough 65-63 game at San Diego State (Nov. 18) that had 10 lead changes and six ties. By playing Baylor, Syracuse and Loyola in the Battle 4 Atlantis, ASU is in a nine-game stretch where it is playing seven 2021 NCAA Tournament teams, with the outliers being Washington State (5-1) and San Francisco (8-0) on Dec. 19.
A GOOD DJ
DJ Horne hit a career-high six threes in the Nov. 24 Baylor game and is 20-of-41 (.487) from three on the year and .424 (128-of-302) in his three-year career. He averaged 15.1 ppg. last year at Illinois State and also is a .831 career free throw shooter (64-of-77).
ASU has won eight of the past 10 in Tempe against the Cougars after the 77-74 overtime win on Feb. 27, 2021, and has also won the past three after the 2021 Pac-12 Tournament win. Three of the past four meetings have been decided by super late buckets, with ASU hitting game winners last year with 0.4 seconds on Feb. 27 and with 11 seconds left in Las Vegas on March 10. WSU hit a three to win 67-65 in Pullman on Jan. 30, 2019, with four seconds remaining. Kimani Lawrence averaged 13.5 points in the wins over the Cougars last year and shot 13-of-22 (.591) from the field, while Jalen Graham averaged 10 points and six boards. Marcus Bagley didn't play in either game.
Kimani Lawrence has been solid early averaging 11.6 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting .530 (35-of-66) with four double-doubles...Jay Heath and Jalen Graham each missed the first two games -- and many practices -- because of COVID protocols...ASU is holding opponents to .431 shooting despite Syracuse making .541...Alonzo Gaffney leads team with 10 blocks...Marreon Jackson's 37 assists is team best and he has played in 111 games and is 361-of-436 (.828) at the free throw line...freshman Enoch Boakye has 28 rebounds in just over 90 minutes...Luther Muhammad has started 60-of-72 career games. He started 54 games in his first two years at Ohio State.
GOOD AT THE LINE
ASU's backcourt of Marreon Jackson (15-of-16), DJ Horne (7-of-7), Jay Heath (12-of-13), Luther Muhummad (8-of-11) and Jamiya Neal (3-of-4) are a combined 46-of-51 (.902) at the free throw line.
The Sun Devils have many new faces and a trio of solid returners -- like a lot of college basketball teams. Bobby Hurley is in his seventh year and returns "super" senior Kimani Lawrence for a fifth year, junior Jalen Graham and sophomore Marcus Bagley. Luther Muhammad sat last year to get a shoulder healthy after transferring from Ohio State. The Sun Devils added graduate transfer Marreon Jackson from Toledo (2020-21 MAC Player of the Year in his fifth year of college hoops), along with DI transfers DJ Horne (Illinois State) and Jay Heath (Boston College) and added junior college transfer Alonzo Gaffney, who started his career at Ohio State. Add in freshman Jamiya Neal and Enoch Boakye and ASU started the season with a 10-man rotation, although only seven of them played in the first four games.
Marreon Jackson averaged 18.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists last season (2020-21) for Toledo. Since 2009-10, the only other two players to do that are Michigan State's Denzel Valentine (2015-16) and Ohio State's Evan Turner (2009-10). Against Baylor he came close to a backdoor triple-double, with 11 rebounds, 10 assists and five points. He had two triple-doubles 18 days apart in 2020-21. He had 18 points, 10 boards and 11 assists vs. Miami of Ohio on Feb. 16 and then had 22 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists vs. Ball State on March 5. He also just missed another chance on Jan. 16 at Akron with 24 points, nine boards and 10 assists. How rare is two triple-doubles 18 days? ASU has had two...in its history.
The Sun Devils have been good in November under Coach Hurley. The program captured Las Vegas titles at the 2017 Continental Tire Invitational and at the 2018 MGM Resorts Main Eventl It has posted wins vs. Rhode Island and St. John's in Connecticut, Utah State, Mississippi State, Xavier and Kansas State in Las Vegas, Tulane in Orlando and North Carolina State in Brooklyn.
GET THOSE PEOPLE BACK
Everyone knows 2019-20 and 2020-21 hit the Sun Devil program hard in terms of momentum. In addition to a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance getting canceled in 2020 -- which would have been a first for the program since the early 1960s --ASU had turned the corner on attendance. Desert Financial Arena averaged 10,140 fans in the three years starting with 2017-18, with 496,872 fans attending 49 Sun Devil games, as ASU racked up a 39-10 record. In the three previous seasons in 51 games ASU averaged 6,087 fans (310,459).
MARREON (SAY IT MAR (LIKE CAR) - REON)
Toledo graduate transfer Marreon Jackson entered 2021-22 with 1,817 career points (14.3 ppg.) and 573 career assists. The 2020-21 MAC Player of the Year posted two triple doubles last season and made a school record 41 straight free throws to open the 2020-21 season. He has five 30-point games in career and in the final 10 games of 2020-21 he averaged 19.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists. He shot .904 from the free throw line in 2020-21, eighth-best in the nation as he was 103-of-114 and entered this year a career .824 free throw shooter (346-of-420).
One can't take for granted what ASU did from 2017-20. Coming off records in of 23-11 in 2018-19 and 20-12 in 2017-18, ASU notched its third straight 20-win season in the COVID cut 2019-20 season, something it had done just twice. In James Harden's two seasons ASU went 21-13 (2007-08) and 25-10 (2008-09) and then went 22-11 in 2009-10. You have to go back to 1960-63 for the only other time in ASU history for it to happen. ASU went 23-6 in 1960-61, 23-4 in 1961-62 and 26-3 in 1962-63, led by another Olympic gold medalist, Jumpin' Joe Caldwell.
College hoops has changed in the past 30 years. In Bobby Hurley's junior season in 1991-92, Duke's first game was Nov. 25. The 2021-22 season marks the 30-year anniversary of Coach Hurley earning 1992 Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors and ASU played its sixth game on Nov. 25.
The final eight games last year and his start this year have been good for Kimani Lawrence. In his past 15 games that started on Feb. 20, 2021, Kimani is averaging 12.5 points and 8,4 rebounds and is shooting 77-of-137 (.562) from the field with six double-doubles. He had 21 points and 20 rebounds on Feb. 25, 2021, vs. Washington which was the first 20/20 outing by a Sun Devil since Nov. 19, 1997 (Mike Batiste gave Wagner 36/20) and the only 20/20 by a Sun Devil in a Pac-12 game. The 21 rebounds is second-most by a Sun Devil in a Pac-12 game. He also matched a career highs in points (22) in the Feb. 23 win over Washington. Five of his top seven scoring games have come in the past 15 games. He posted double digits in 14 games in 2018-19 and his best game was 22-point effort vs. Mississippi State in Las Vegas on Nov. 19, 2018, including the game-winning three-pointer with the scored tied and 29 seconds left.
QUICK NOTES ON COACH HURLEY AT ASU
Third straight 20-win season in 2019-20 for just the third time in program history...top two average attendance marks in ASU history, including 10,603 in 2017-18...2019-20 COVID-shortened season saw ASU (20-11) post its first seven-game Pac-12 win streak since the 1980-81 team won 11 straight...28 halftime comeback deficits in his six years, tops in the Pac-12...11-7 in the Pac-12 in 2019-20 after going 12-6 in 2018-19, just the second time in the previous 25 seasons the Sun Devils posted back-to-back winning Pac-12 records...best two non-conference wins in school history vs. No. 1 Kansas on Dec. 22, 2018 and at No. 2 Kansas on Dec. 10, 2017...reached NCAA Tournament for just fourth time in 23 seasons in 2018 and then followed it with back-to-back appearances for the first time since 1980-81 in 2019...in November of 2017, defeated two eventual 2018 NCAA Tournament No. 1 seeds in a span of a two weeks (Kansas and Xavier)...matched the highest Associated Press ranking in school history (third) in December of 2017.
Coach Hurley is one of three current head coaches who earned Final Four MOP, one of nine who won the NCAA title as a player, and is the only one to win it twice.
CURRENT HEAD COACHES TO WIN NCAA TITLE AS PLAYER
Steve Alford, Indiana (1987) — Nevada
Kenny Blakeney, Duke (1991) — Howard
Juan Dixon, Maryland (2002 MOP) — Coppin State
Patrick Ewing, Georgetown (1984 MOP) — Georgetown
Bobby Hurley, Duke (1991,1992 MOP) — Arizona State
Nate James, Duke (2001) — Austin Peay
Steve Masiello, Kentucky (1998) — Manhattan
Wes Miller, North Carolina (2005) — Cincinnati
Josh Pastner, Arizona (1997) — Georgia Tech
Mark Pope, Kentucky (1996) — BYU