Arizona State had an opportunity to defend their home court and to get a much needed sweep of the Washington schools. The opportunity was squandered. The Sun Devils and the Washington State Cougars tangled on Sunday afternoon in a game that had both teams needed in the worst way.
The Sun Devils are small, have little help off the bench, and have to shoot a good percentage to win. It’s something that head coach Bobby Hurley has had to contend with this season. When the shots are not dropping in for the Sun Devils the lack of an inside game becomes glaringly apparent.
On Sunday afternoon the low percentage came back to bite the Sun Devils in their 91-83 loss to the Washington State Cougars. For the game, the Sun Devils shot 41% and took many unadvised shots that head coach Bobby Hurley shook his head at.
“We just took some awful shots in the second half. When you bomb shots when nobody expects you to take them and you miss them, that’s going to affect the mood of the team on defense.” Coach Hurley stated after the game.
The size of Washington State was quite obvious. The Cougars started Josh Hawkinson, who stood at 6’10” and Connor Clifford who stands 7’0”. Now, Hawkinson is the better player out of the two, had himself a phenomenal game. Hawkinson scored 31 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and made life for the smaller Sun Devils miserable the entire game.
Arizona State had no answer for Washington State’s size advantage. The Cougars played inside-out with their offense and had the Sun Devils scrambling to cover wide open Cougar shooters. When the Sun Devils would race out to cover players like Ike Iroegbu, he would simply drive by them and get higher percentage shots or an uncontested lay-up.
“We talk about the urgency of sprinting back, regardless of a positive or negative play. It’s just not there. It’s been happening. It’s part of our field goal percentage being so bad.” Coach Hurley said in an exasperated tone.
It’s clear that Coach Hurley is frustrated with his team right now. I’m sure the players are frustrated, but the players have to take it upon themselves to fix the problems that plague the Sun Devils. Especially, the ones that are within their control, such as hustling back on defense.
Washington State also got out on the fast break and with the lack of hustle getting back, the Sun Devils gave up so many easy baskets. The Cougars led in fast break points 22-6 and when the Sun Devils don’t send four guys to the backboard, it makes you scratch your head as to why Arizona State couldn’t get back on defense.
Passion. To play defense on any level you need a passion to do it. You have to want to do it.
You have to give Ernie Kent and his Cougars all the credit in the world. The Cougars came out of the gate quick, shot the ball well, used their size advantage, and caught the Sun Devils sleeping on defense numerous times. Washington State played a full 40 minute game. The Sun Devils didn’t.
With the Oregon Ducks next up for the Sun Devils, life is only going to get tougher for Arizona State. The Sun Devils have to come out of the Oregon trip with at least a split. The Sun Devils need some kind of momentum going into the last few weeks of conference play.