The No. 24 San Diego State Aztecs took control with a 45-point second half and led most of the way in an 80-68 win over No. 23 Arizona State Thursday night at Desert Financial Arena.
Before talking to his team postgame and then the media, Coach Hurley went back and watched the second-run that actually started with the Sun Devils leading 43-41 and having the ball.
"I ended up just watching it (the second-half run), so I got to revisit those possessions and it was a combination of poor shot selection, careless turnovers and bad transitions after mistakes," sixth-year head coach Bobby Hurley said. "I give credit to San Diego State. It felt like a really ugly game, difficult game for anyone to really get on an offensive rhythm. They emerged from that 15-minute mark in the second half and really outplayed us, were more physical, more resilient, and Schakel was really the best player on the floor ."
The Sun Devils struggled to slow down Aztecs guard Jordan Schakel, who finished with 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting and 5-of-9 from beyond the arc.
The Sun Devils also struggled down low, especially against Aztecs star forward Nathan Mensah, who already had a double-double at halftime and finished with 17 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks.
Sun Devil sophomore forward/center Jalen Graham knows what he must work on going forward.
"I have to crash the boards more and get mine off dump-offs," Graham said. "We're just not a big-man lineup… Even if I'm a big man, but right now I just want to win."
Despite the big game from Mensah, Hurley was pleased with Graham's performance at the end of the game.
"I like how he finished the game," Hurley said. "His first half he had similar opportunities but was 1-for-4 and didn't convert. I think where it got to its worst for us was when it was 44-43, they were up, and Jalen missed a legitimate jump hook over a 6'1 defender that he certainly can make.
"After that it was one of the poorest examples of our lack of focus and as we didn't care to run back on defense and they laid the ball the other way and that's when they saw the break and the game open a little bit and eventually got it to 48-43 and hit a couple threes after that."
"That's the play that really sticks out in my mind of if we really care about how hard we have to play, or if we know how hard we have to play to beat a team like this. There were too many examples of that tonight."
The Aztecs, who were 30-2 and ranked as high as No. 3 in 2019-20, gave the Sun Devils more than they could handle and have gotten out to another 5-0 start and extended their road winning streak to 13 games.
The Sun Devils struggled from the field, shooting 34.5%, and the offense really missed that spark that the preseason All-American Martin provides.
"He wasn't really having that fire and energy that I'm always use to seeing from him," Hurley said. "Overall, he's got to play better in games like this. He's had a history of playing really well in these types of games. It was 43-41, we tried to get a foul on a three-point shot and it didn't work out and they hit a three. It's things like that we really have to avoid, just mistakes and bad judgement."
What will the No. 23 ranked Sun Devils have to work on going forward?
"Our offense started off poor, both halves the ball was sticking too much," Hurley said. "They were switching their five-man on our guards and we couldn't go by them again which was pretty surprising. Our forwards didn't make them pay under the basket for them switching so we're going to have to work on that because I imagine Villanova did a similar thing and other teams might see that and think it's working pretty well. We will be getting to the practice floor to see some adjustments we can make on offense to do better in those situations."
Next up for the Sun Devils will be a very short road trip up to Phoenix to take on 3-0 Grand Canyon Lopes at GCU Arena on Dec. 13 at 2 p.m. MT.