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ASU Basketball: Sun Devils visit Stanford to open Pac-12 play

The Sun Devils will look to get Pac-12 play started on the right foot.

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona State Sun Devils travel to Northern California to begin Pac-12 play with a matchup against the Stanford Cardinal on Friday, Dec. 30.

For ASU, it’s the first of a two-game visit to the 510 which also includes a New Year’s Day tilt with the California Golden Bears.

Bobby Hurley will hope to open the conference portion of the schedule on a sweeter note than his group did last season, when the Sun Devils visited their rivals in Tucson, Ariz., and were downed in a 94-82 loss to No. 8 Arizona. Hurley was ejected from the contest.

The competition will be much less challenging this season, as the Cardinal enter the bout at a respectable 8-4. That said, it will be the Sun Devils who hope to prove they’re worth more than their record suggests, touting a 7-6 mark—a stark contrast from their 10-3 standing out of non-conference play last year.

Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time

Television: Pac-12 Network

Radio: 98.7 FM—Sun Devil Sports Radio Network (Tim Healey, Kyle Dodd)

Arizona State (7-6) Update:

It’s no secret ASU relies on its 3-point shooting to kickstart its offense. It just so happens the Sun Devils are coming off a 98-62 win over Central Arkansas in which they tied the school record for 3s in a single contest for the second time this campaign.

Prior to picking up the win, Hurley’s group had lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, dropping home matches against New Mexico State and then-No. 9 Creighton. Both results came following the departure of highly-regarded freshman wing Sam Cunliffe, but it appears ASU has regained some of its footing entering the Pac-12 slate.

There’s hope that momentum translates to a happier ending than when Hurley’s squad ventured to play the Cardinal for the first time during the 2015-16 campaign.

Last season, the Sun Devils managed to come back from a 10-point deficit against Stanford on the road, but ultimately fell short, falling 75-73 on a Rosco Allen jumper with 8.4 seconds to go.

Stanford (8-4) Update:

In head coach Jerod Hasse’s first season at the helm, the Cardinal got off to a hot start, going 6-1 in their first seven games, earning victories over Harvard and Seton Hall. Despite the early success, Stanford lost three of their next five games, losing to ranked opponents in St. Mary’s and Kansas.

Like the Sun Devils, the Cardinal ended the non-conference schedule with a resettling rebound win, defeating Idaho 86-80 after getting slammed by Southern Methodist, 72-49.

Keys to an ASU victory

1. The Long Ball

It’s pretty simple: If the Sun Devils shoot well, they win. If they don’t, they lose.

In wins, ASU has shot an average of 42.2 percent from 3-point range. In losses, that average dips to just 27.1 percent.

The Sun Devils must take advantage of the Cardinal’s subpar 3-point defense and work the perimeter. Stanford enters the matchup allowing opponents to hit 33.5 percent of their treys (ranks 138th nationally), and in losses allowed opposition to make a combined average of 44.3 of their 3s.

That doesn’t mean the points will come any more easily however, as Stanford is allowing just 65 points per game, which currently ranks 54th in the country.

2. Slow down Reid Travis, win the glass

The Sun Devils out-rebounded the Cardinal in each of their battles last year, but that was when ASU boasted senior center Eric Jacobsen and Stanford was without former five-star forward Reid Travis, who was out with a season-ending leg injury.

Reid stands at a stout 6-foot-8, 245 pounds, and, as our sister site Rule of Tree says, possesses “a relentless motor on offense, defense, and the boards.” He currently leads the team in scoring (17.8 points per game) and rebounding (9.8 rebounds per game).

The Sun Devils must find a way to control the paint and prevent Travis from altering the game down low. ASU forward Obinna Oleka, who leads the Pac-12 averaging 10.8 rebounds per game, will play a crucial role in this matchup.

Prediction: Stanford - 62, Arizona State - 58