Bobby Hurley's biggest assignment with Arizona State has yet to be completed, as the Sun Devils are (once gain) coming back from Tucson empty ended.
Thursday night's defeat against Arizona (91-75) is somehow logical if both resumes are to be compared. Plus, going into the McKale Center fortress while the Wildcats are getting up to speed is not a good match.
ASU has not won a game in Tucson since 2010 and the hiring of Bobby Hurley does not seem to have affected the trend; the Sun Devils received a beating last year, loosing by 38 (61-99), and last night's game was barely close before ending up in a 16-point setback.
Honestly, it was hard to envision the Sun Devils upsetting #16 Arizona. They are relying heavily on their 3-point shooting and when the success is not there, do not expect good things to happen against an excellent defense.
ASU ended the first half completely silent behind the arc, a season-first drought for any half (0-9). With no surprise, the Wildcats flew away with the lead and never gave it back.
45-25 at the break. But the work that Bobby Hurley has been injecting over time (kind of) paid off for the remaining of the game.
The loud McKale Center is a handful to manage and even though the game was already over, the Sun Devils won the second half, scoring 50 points to 46 on the opponents side.
This is a good sign of a short-handed team coming into its own. Only 7 players played in Tucson, which has been the norm lately. That did not really matter, ASU found its shooting back early in the second half, shooting 10 of 17 from deep through the last 20 minutes, and Arizona's lead diminished to 68-56.
Arizona State never came closer than this. The Wildcats pulled away by scoring 10 points like it was nothing.
However, the second-half comeback could be a precursor of greater things. Many teams could have just given up. But ASU showed resilience and proved that when long range shooting is clicking, this team could be extremely dangerous.
This is a big gamble but there are not many options available. Live by the three, die by the three, as they say.
Bobby Hurley knows he has a long way to go in order to fulfill the huge potential of Arizona State's basketball program. It is slowly taking shape, and everybody should be patient.
But the main achievement he was hired to master remains a blur today.
Arizona has become a basketball powerhouse under Sean Miller. Arizona State's administration expects the same with Bobby Hurley and as of today, the Sun Devils head coach was schooled by his counterpart three times in a row.
The national success cannot be separated with state success. ASU has to deliver close outputs, perform at a high level and win regurlarly against Arizona. None of the three keys to success have been reached, yet. The time will probably come.
Herb Sendek always found a way to play competitively with the Wildcats, despite tough years on the court. Bobby Hurley must match his predecessor on this aspect.