ASU's Bobby Hurley sees positives in opener, but looks for improvement against UC Riverside

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The new version of Bobby Hurley's Arizona State men's basketball team passed it's first test on Tuesday. Now comes the second outing of the season.

The Sun Devils (1-0) take the floor at Desert Financial Arena at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, this time against UC Riverside (0-1), which fell 66-53 to San Diego State in its opener. The game will air on the Pac-12 Network.

ASU is coming off a 76-60 win over Portland in Tuesday's opener. It was the debut in a Sun Devil uniform for all but two returning players. Hurley thought some of the team's shooting woes were the result of traditional opening-day nerves and having a lot of newcomers.

ASU shot 47 percent (31-for-66) for the game but managed a respectable 18-for-32 (56.2) in the second half after a 13-for-34 (38.2) first half.

“Some of it was. I think our best ones (shots) come off drive and kicks and some of them were just early before there were any passes,'' Hurley said. "The success rate on those type of shots is not great unless you’re really in a good rhythm on offense and have a lot of momentum and then those type of shots tend to go in. I think we took a lot of long ones early. Just got to get back to what we’re doing in the one or two games in terms of moving the ball better on the offensive end.”

ASU had five players finish in double figures with veterans Kimani Lawrence and Marcus Bagley combining for 31 points, 16 rebounds and three steals. Three others scored in double figures.

Two issues ASU had last year, rebounding and ball movement, looked much improved. The Sun Devils outrebounded their foe 42-27 and registered 15 assists with seven players factoring in that total.

Winning without having a great shooting night was something Hurley, starting his seventh season at ASU, is excited about.

“Just to score 76 the way we played, the way we shot it, I think is a really good sign. I don’t think there’s going to be too many nights where (junior guard) Luther (Muhammad) and (senior guard) Marreon (Jackson) go 1-of-1 from 3. I mean that’s not what I’ve been watching through the whole summer and the fall," Hurley said.

"So I think there are some positives that you can take from it where, even if we don’t have our A game or our B game, I don’t know what letter you want to assign our offensive performance, but just how we competed, how we defended, got stops, turned them over,'' he said. "If your defense shows up and you’ve got guys playing hard on that end, you’re going to give yourself a chance to win on nights like this.”

The Sun Devils were missing four players in their opener due to COVID contact tracing protocols and those players aren't expected to dress for Thursday's sgame. They include forward Jalen Graham and Boston College transfer Jay Heath. The others are true freshman Justin Rochelin and walk-on Jordan Williams.

UC Riverside finished 14-8 overall and 8-4 in the Big West Conference a year ago. It's top player in the opener was 7-foot-1 junior center Callum McRae who totaled 13 points and four rebounds in the loss to the Aztecs.

Reach the reporter at Michelle.Gardner@gannett.com or 602 444-4783. Follow her on Twitter @MGardnerSports.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: ASU basketball team looks to improve on first game with outing against UC Riverside