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ASU Basketball: Sun Devils go winless at Battle 4 Atlantis

Tough time

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at Loyola-Chicago Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

We at House of Sparky hope you have enjoyed your Thanksgiving and are looking forward to rivalry weekend as much as we are. In homage to the second servings at the dinner table on Thursday, here’s a double recap from Arizona State men’s hoops last two games in the Bahamas.

The non-conference trip to the Bahamas has been anything but paradise for Arizona State through two games.

One night after faltering near the end of the first half against Baylor, the Sun Devils (2-4) dropped their second in a row to the Syracuse Orange (3-2) on Thursday night.

If not for the different colors and name on the score graphic, the start of the game might as well have been a rerun of the one played the night before against Baylor. Through 14 minutes, the Sun Devils stayed with the Orange, trading buckets and staying afloat due to promising outside shooting.

For the final six minutes, the Sun Devils collapsed again and gave up an 18-2 run to the Orange that put the game out of reach.

DJ Horne was the primary source of offense again for Arizona State through much of the night. He added on his six 3-pointers made against Baylor with four on Thursday to extend his tournament total to 10.

Marreon Jackson and Luther Muhammad had much better second halves than they did against Baylor, and scored 29 points between them. Kimani Lawrence also had a bounce-back night with a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Bobby Hurley switched to full-court press in the second half, and the increase in the defensive intensity allowed the Sun Devils to knock the lead below double-digits. But the Orange put it away before the game really became competitive.

This record must be broken. For the third straight night, Arizona State (2-5) played a lackluster first half after trading buckets with their opponent early on, and could not mount a big enough charge to overcome the hole they had dug themselves.

On this night, the opponent was Loyola Chicago (5-2) and the final score was 77-59 in favor of the Ramblers. After three games in three nights in the Bahamas, the Sun Devils are losers of three straight. Four, once the loss on the road to San Diego State is factored in.

“We’ve got to find ourselves again,” said Bobby Hurley. “We have to do some soul-searching and figure out what our identity is. We’ve been all over the place here.”

Jay Heath provided some nice additional scoring for the Sun Devils. Coming off the bench, Heath led the team with 16 points. It was a nice breakout for the Boston College transfer who began the season on the COVID-19 exempt list.

At times this season, it has appeared as if the Sun Devils were the unfortunate victims of hot shooting nights from their opponents. Through seven games, the sample size is large enough to indicate the larger share of attribution should be directed toward the Sun Devils defense. In essence, while there have been nice moments, the totality has not been very good.

The Ramblers shot 12 for 26 from 3-point range and 50 percent from the floor. Center Jacob Huston posted a new career high with 26 points and shot 3 for 3 on his attempts beyond the arc.

A night after Sun Devil transfer guards Luther Muhammad and Marreon Jackson combined for 29 points, neither player reached double-figures. From what Hurley has seen during the preseason, this is on the low end of the potential scoring potency of the backcourt pair. But outside of those dress rehearsals and the game against Syracuse, neither Muhammad or Jackson have clicked in the offense as of yet.

The Sun Devils will have a chance to get on the same page and carve out their identity in the first in-conference matchup of the season against Washington State at home on Wednesday.