Bobby Hurley's start in Tempe did not exactly go as planned on Friday night. Sacramento State came into Wells Fargo Arena and played 40 minutes of sound basketball, taking advantage of a poor shooting night from Arizona State en route to a 66-63 victory.
The Sun Devils will have a second chance to get Hurley that elusive first win tonight against a dangerous Belmont squad. The Bruins are already off to a hot start this year and have made the NCAA Tournament in four out of the last five seasons.
Tip-off: 8:00 p.m. MT
Television: Pac-12 Networks Arizona
Arizona State Update:
Shooting woes plagued the maroon and gold in their opener against the Hornets. They shot at a 56 percent clip from the free throw line and made just 2-of-17 three-point attempts in the loss.
Hurley thought the team came out nervous and started pressing after a slow start. It will be interesting to see if a similar theme occurs tonight as the team tries to make up for the opening loss.
If they are to pick up that first win, a better effort from the players coming off the bench will be needed. The only non-starter to score on Friday was Savon Goodman, with the rest of the bench combining to shoot 0-for-5 from the field.
The Bruins went into Milwaukee on Friday and came out with an 83-80 win against Marquette, a feat that Arizona State wasn't able to accomplish last season. Forward Evan Bradds led all scorers with 24 points, while shooting guard Craig Bradshaw poured in 18 of his own.
Bradshaw is a senior now and the undisputed leader of the team. He introduced himself to the country last March when he nearly led Belmont to an upset of No. 2 Virginia in its NCAA Tournament opener, and Arizona State will need to limit his touches in order to win tonight. Look for Hurley to throw a number of different looks out on defense until something works.
Keys to victory:
1. Force someone other than Bradshaw to beat you
The Bruins have plenty of talented players scattered among their roster, but the Sun Devils will have a good chance of winning this one if they sell out to stop Bradshaw. He is their most dangerous threat from behind the arc and can hit from anywhere inside 25 feet. Bradshaw definitely needs to be the focus of Hurley's game plan.
2. Let's get physical
Shutting down Bradds in the paint will be important as well for the maroon and gold's cause. That job will fall on the shoulders of Eric Jacobsen, whose new physique isn't exactly conducive to playing a physical style of basketball. Still, the more he can move Bradds, the better. The big man can shoot from nearly anywhere on the floor, and it will be up to Jacobsen to get him out of his comfort zone and move him into bad shots.
3. Play quickly
Sacramento State did a good job of slowing Friday's game down, getting Arizona State out of their new "run and gun" style. Belmont also likes to push the tempo, but that is alright. The Sun Devils have better athletes, and a deeper bench, to win this way. Expect a much higher scoring game than the one three days ago.
Prediction: Arizona State - 74, Belmont - 71