(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
A game after what might be their signature win of the season, the Arizona State Sun Devils had what may be their most disappointing loss on Saturday, falling to the New Mexico State Aggies 81-70.
The Sun Devils were short staffed at Wells Fargo Arena, with forward Maurice O’Field out with a concussion and Sam Cunlffe having left the school with the intent to transfer. The lack of available players left the Sun Devils with few options. Of the eight players who took the floor, two played less than 10 minutes and five logged over 30.
ASU was spotted a point after New Mexico received a pregame technical due to not having their lineup in on time. From there, the Sun Devils got off to a rocky start. 3-pointers from Braxton Huggins and Ian Baker gave the Aggies an early lead, which became a 13-2 run by ASU to put them down 13-5.
The Sun Devils played from behind for the first part of the half until a 10-0 run catapulted them to a 32-29 lead. They attacked the paint, scoring on four straight layups and retaking control of the game.
The three-ball became the killer again. Huggins, Jermaine Haley, and Joe Garza hit from deep and ASU was trailing 40-38 at the half.
The speed of the Aggies was an issue for Arizona State, both in the first half and when they started to wear down. The Aggies had 18 fast break points in the game.
“Tonight we came out flat and they wanted it more than we did,” ASU junior guard Shannon Evans II said.
The Sun Devils tried to recapture the fire in the second half, in part due to head coach Bobby Hurley. Hurley got in the ear of the officials and was ejected after getting a second technical foul with 9:47 remaining in the second half.
“I can’t jump into the body and the minds of the people that are working the game,” Hurley said. “I have a right to contest calls just like the other coach did throughout the game, but that’s their decision.”
The Sun Devils energy was briefly revived at periods in the second half, including after Hurley’s ejection. Evans said he felt that burst of energy, but his team wasn’t able to keep it up.
The Sun Devils energy couldn’t make up for lackluster offense. ASU started the second half 2-11 from the field and finished 10-33 after the break. They only scored on consecutive shots twice in the entire second half, one of which was in garbage time.
On the flip side, the NMU offense was active and crisp. They used the corners well and whipped the ball around, forcing ASU into difficult defensive rotations. The Sun Devils struggled to meet the challenge, allowing the Aggies to shoot 11-26 from deep.
Among the handful of bright spots for ASU was the presence of Andre Adams. The forward has been brought along slowly since suffering a torn ACL last season. He played nine minutes and scored six points.
“He’s been through so much with the injury and he’s worked hard to get himself to the point where he is now,” Hurley said. “For a guy who’s fought through injuries to have success its great for him.”