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ASU Basketball: Struggling Sun Devils limp into Berkeley

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Losers of four of its last five, Arizona State heads to Haas Pavilion on Thursday needing a good performance.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona State Sun Devils return to the road tonight after splitting a homestand against the Washington schools. This will be the first of two games in the Bay Area this weekend for Bobby Hurley's team.

Arizona State is coming off a four-point loss against Washington, a game which saw the Sun Devils miss 13 free throws in defeat. The loss was the fourth in their last five games for the team.

Next up is a team that also desperately needs a win - the California Golden Bears.

Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. MT

Television: Fox Sports 1

Arizona State Update (11-7, 1-4 Pac-12):

The maroon and gold actually played pretty well against the Huskies but were unable to get over the hump thanks to an awful performance at the charity stripe. There is no more time for moral victories, however, as the team needs to start obtaining actual victories if it wants to stay in NCAA Tournament conversation.

Combo guard Kodi Justice continued his hot play, leading Arizona State with 17 points off the bench. Five other players scored in double figures in the loss, and while that balanced of an attack would be envied by most every other team in the country, it was the team's lack of an ability to get a late defensive stop that coach Hurley would have rather seen.

California Update (12-6, 2-3 Pac-12):

In similar fashion to ASU's struggles after a successful nonconference season, the Golden Bears have dropped three straight just when most thought they would be Pac-12 contenders. All three of those setbacks did come on the road by an average of five points, so they have at least been competitive in defeat.

California has four players averaging in double figures, points-wise, and is led by senior guard Tyrone Wallace at 15.4 points per game. Wallace, however, will miss tonight's game (and at least the next four weeks) with a broken right wrist.

Expect the team's two fabulous freshmen, Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, to carry Cuonzo Martin's team in Wallace's absence.

Keys to victory:

1. Get back to basics

The Sun Devils have strayed recently from what led to so much success in the months of November and December. The offense looks lost at times, struggling most in halfcourt sets. If the team can find their true identity, one that led to wins against opponents like Texas A&M and Creighton, they'll have a good shot at getting out of Berkeley with an upset.

2. Win the "hustle board"

Washington beat Arizona State to multiple 50-50 balls in Saturday's game, two of which came in the final four minutes of the close loss. That has become a recurring theme for Hurley's team throughout the past few weeks, as has poor rebounding and a decrease in forced turnovers.

3. Pressure Singer

Junior Sam Singer will be taking over at point guard while Wallace is injured. His production has taken a bit of a hit with the influx of young talent on this year's roster, but he has played big minutes and performed nicely in past games against the Sun Devils. Pressuring him into bad offensive possessions will be a major key in this one.

Prediction: California - 75, Arizona State - 70