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Cal Basketball

ASU/Arizona Preview: Sun Devils Have a Lot in Common With Bears

January 27, 2021

Arizona State’s basketball coach Bobby Hurley has been dealing with pandemic and other issues that have disrupted the Sun Devils’ season.

Mark Fox knows how he feels. 

The Cal head coach, whose team visits ASU in Tempe Thursday night, says the Sun Devils’ problems parallel the Bears’ and are a big reason Arizona State (4-8, 1-5) have underachieved.

Picked for second in preseason Pac-12 media poll, ASU has lost six straight, the last two to intrastate rival Arizona, which hosts the Bears on Saturday.

“They’ve had COVID issues with shutdowns,” Fox said Wednesday in a Zoom call with the Bay Area media. “They have had one of their best players (Remy Martin) miss time because of death in the family, They’ve had little continuity with what they are trying to do, much like we’ve had. ...Both teams have in a season that is disjointed to begin with, had a disruption in continuity which has affected both of us….It’s hard to expect to be consistent. It’s hard to overcome and we’ve experienced it ourselves.”

Six players who have started games, including Alonzo Verge, Jr. last season’s Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year and leading rebounder Marcus Bagley have missed time. 

But like the Bears, the Sun Devils are getting better. Sophomore forward Jalen Graham, who did not play from Dec. 16 until Jan. 21. After ASU had games canceled or postponed because of pandemic issues, Graham developed a case of mononucleosis. He returned last weekend for the games against UofA and was most impressive. He scored  10 points in 24 minutes vs. Arizona on Jan. 21 and then had his first career double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds (both career highs) at Arizona on Jan. 25. In his final nine games last year he scored 25 points, he has scored 24 points in his past two games. He has 47 career blocks.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Bobby Hurley talks to his troops

The Sun Devils revolve around Martin (1, above) missed two games because of the death of his grandfather. He averages 17.4 points and 4.2 assists per game. He is shooting 45 percent (54-for-120) from the floor, and had 22 of his 24 points Monday night at Arizona in the second half as the Sun Devis made a valiant comeback if ultimately futile comeback after trailing by as many as 26.

“He obviously came into the year with a good chance of being the player of the year in the conference,” Fox said. “ He’s experienced he has great speed, really elite speed. He has the ability to score, whether it’s a pull-up jumper or at the rim. He defends. He is very complete. I think the thing that jumps out at you is his elite speed. You combine that with his experience and he’s a terrific player.”

The Bears also have a top-shelf guard themselves in Matt Bradley, who returned to the floor in Saturday’s loss to USC. He had missed five straight tames and seven of nine. He played 24 minutes and scored 11 points.

Fox said he told Bradley that the recovery from his second injury, which was more severe than the first, would require a different recovery path.

“I have tried to prepare him for the fact that this one is going to be really tough mentally. He’s handled it pretty good,” Fox said. “His body is not going to feel good until probably July. It’s not. He was really sore after the (USC) game which we anticipated. 

“It is going to take time to get his legs back underneath him. It is going to take time for him to look and feel like himself. But the strength in the joint is back so he’s been cleared to play. Is the endurance back in that joint? He’s probably got a ways to go there. Is he going to have to manage this thing the rest of the year? No question. We just talked about the right approach. You have to be patient with yourself and be disciplined with yourself and your treatment.”

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
UofA’s Mathurin dunks


  • The teams played one another on Dec. 3 in the Pac-12 opener and ASU pulled away late for a 70-62 victory. It is the Sun Devils’ lone conference win.
  • Graham was injured in that game.
  • ASU leads the series, 45-41, and has won six straight from Cal. The Bears last win in Tempe was in 2017.
  • Sun Devils guards Caleb and Josh Christopher are the sons of former Cal star Patrick Christopher,

Arizona Notes

  • The Bears travel to Tucson Saturday night for the 8 .m. (PST) encounter with the Wildcats (12-3, 6-3), who host Stanford Thursday.
  • The status of Arizona guard Benedict Mathurin, who left the ASU game Monday with an ankle sprain, is uncertain for this weekend. Coach Sean Miller said the injury was to soft tissue and not a high ankle sprain and the freshman from Montreal was “making progress”. But the coach said he didn’t know if the player will be available this weekend.
  • The Wildcats were already thin at guard, having lost junior Jemari Baker for the season with a wrist injury.
  • Five Arizona players, including Baker, average double figures in scoring, led by James Akinjo at 14.3.
  • Arizona is the highest-scoring team in the Pac-12, averaging 80.7 points per game and is tops in rebound margin at plus 9.4.
  • The Wildcats are not eligible for postseason play, a self-imposed punishment for recruiting transgressions.





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