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Bobby Hurley: ‘We’ve got to find ourselves again’

The Sun Devils don’t look like themselves.

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

James Harden, Doug Ducey, N’Keal Harry, Devin Booker, Antonio Pierce, five-star prospects Taeshon Cherry, Kyree Walker and the 13,693 within Wells Fargo Arena saw it.

The clock hit zero point zero before the smoke machine erupted, students launched pool noodles, as fans raced out of “The Bank.”

After No. 11 Arizona State fell 76-72 to Oregon Thursday night, about 100 others, however, sat, staring into space, stone cold in bitter disappointment.

They likely realized something ASU can’t take back.

“We’re 1-and-3,” head coach Bobby Hurley said of ASU’s Pac-12 record. “We’ve got our work cut out for us and we’ve got to find ourselves again.”

At 13-3, the Sun Devils still own the Pac-12’s best overall record. But they’re tied for 10th with California. It’s a whole new ballgame.

“Yeah, I mean it’s just different here,” Hurley said. “People scout you. They know if they run up and down with us that’s maybe not the best idea after you have the film that you have.”

Arizona State was the story of the 2017-18 college basketball season, and very well can still be.

Its sparkling offensive presence, dashing shooting confidence, murderous full-court press and even an unseen, but attractive inside game. 12-and-0.

“We’re built to win in different ways,” Hurley said. “We don’t have to be one-dimensional to play a fast break up and down, that we do have the inside game and the defense and the quickness in the backcourt to be a good halfcourt team and to win games like this, but we have to prove that and we didn’t do that tonight.”

Through ill-shooting against Colorado and Arizona, foul trouble in the eyes of Utah, and then getting beaten and bruised in the paint against Oregon bigs, every team has figured it out: Play zone defense for success.

But Thursday’s issue against Oregon was a familiar foe to Arizona State. It looked like last season. Within the key, ASU was outscored 38-16. The Sun Devils were outrebounded 38-31.

One can shoot itself out of a zone defense. ASU shot 43 percent from 3, five percent above its season average and kept up with the Ducks at a 43 percent overall clip. The statistics on the boards, however, were just too drastic to overcome.

“It was literally the backboard,” senior guard Kodi Justice said. “We attacked, we got good shots, we made shots, we got to the rim, we got to the foul line. I mean teams are slowing the game down not letting us play at our speed anymore, so we have to figure out way to get stops.”

Justice had 21 points, Shannon Evans had 19 and Tra Holder had 14. The senior trio scored 75 percent of Arizona State’s 72 points. The inside game, though, was virtually non-existent.

Romello White had eight, De’Quon Lake scored four, while Mickey Mitchell, Kimani Lawrence and Vitaliy Shibel all combined for two buckets.

It’s a young frontcourt.

The issue: Not only are three of the five freshmen, but its the first time all five have played in maroon and goald. They’re still rookies, grinding it out in their first conference go-around.

“Sometimes it’s as simple as you gotta practice harder, and you have to compete better and we have to execute in practice,” Hurley said. “And we have to make each other better. I don’t know if we’re completely making each other better on offense right now.”

The bottom line is Arizona State needs to find itself. ASU has dug a hole that can’t get much deeper. UCLA, Arizona, Washington and Stanford are already 3-1.

Now, ASU gets to play the team who beat Oregon by 12 in Corvallis.

And once again, no surprise, Oregon State will play a zone defense. A tactic Hurley admits he hasn’t quite figured out.

“I haven’t done as well at designing a scheme that will highlight what they can do or give us a better way to attack zone defenses, matchup defenses. I thought we had a decent plan in Utah and not so much tonight, especially in the second half. I don’t think it’s a problem with those guys and our shot selection.”