Arizona State basketball coach Bobby Hurley thought this season's team would fare better defensively. It did.
He thought there was more potential on the rebounding end. That appears to be the case.
He figured this would be a team that wouldn't have a problem sharing the basketball. It didn't.
Hurley also thought the latest version of the Sun Devils would shoot better than the collective group that was disappointing a year ago. Well, ASU got off to a slow start there but picked up the pace in the second half.
The Sun Devils surged past visiting Portland 76-60 on Tuesday in the regular season opener for both teams at Desert Financial Arena, but there was plenty of room for improvement.
"Happy to get this game under our belt. We had a scrimmage and an exhibition but until you get real live action and a good crowd. It was good for us. I think we got a lot out of it. We won the game, did what we needed to do, we had the game in doubles the majority of the second half and controlled it there," Hurley said.
Hurley's new squad has just three holdovers from last year's team that was a disappointing ninth in the Pac-12 and one of those three didn't even play.
As expected it was the veteran paving the way as Kimani Lawrence tallied a team-high 19 points with 10 rebounds and three steals. Marcus Bagley added 12 points and six rebounds. A total of five Sun Devils hit double figure with newcomers Alonzo Gaffney and D.J. Horne chipping in with 15 and 11, respectively.
Luther Muhammad, a guard who was in the program but did not play due to shoulder surgery, scored 10 points and had seven rebounds in his ASU debut.
The Sun Devils shot 47% (31-for-66) after going 13-for-34 in the opening half. They were just 7-of-26 from long distance, something the coach didn't expect based on the way his team has practiced.
"I think we took way too many 3's early in the first half, too many quick ones too," Hurley said. "The turnovers were a problem too. It's been a little different. We really haven't seen that. We'll take a look at those and see if we can make some adjustments."
The Sun Devils turned the ball over 19 times but forced the Pilots into 21. The defense was the area in which Hurley was most pleased.
"Defense is something we hang out hat on, our activity, our depth," he said. "We're pretty deep and I think we can stay fresh and keep fresh guys on the court. Overall it was a good experience today."
Among the other positives was the rebounding effort as ASU finished with a 42-27 advantage there. It was the area in which ASU was most deficient last season.
"It was a win, but it was an ugly win. We can do better," Bagley said.
The Sun Devils went into the game with a handful of players out due to COVID-19 protocol. The sidelined quartet included starting forward Jalen Graham, point guard Jay Heath, freshman Justin Rochelin and walk-on Jordan Williams.
ASU remains at home for another nonconference game at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday against UC Riverside.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona State men's basketball opens season with a victory