Tonight at the Bank: No. 11 ASU Basketball Looks to Right the Ship Against Rival Oregon
By TJ Mathewson // Men’s Basketball Beat Writer for Blaze Sports
TEMPE, Ariz.— It wasn’t the ideal first road trip for to open up PAC-12 play for No. 11 ASU (13-2, 1-2), dropping the first two games at Arizona then at Colorado before winning the finale at Utah. Next up for ASU is last year’s final four participant, Oregon.
What’s the team’s overall mentality after the rough road trip? It’s good to be home.
“It’s great to get back (to Tempe) and see this crowd,” senior guard Kodi Justice said after practice Tuesday. “That’s probably the hardest start you could ask for in conference play, playing at arguably the three hardest places.”
“The Bank” might have a different feel to it when ASU hosts Oregon on Thursday, its first home conference game.
The wall that circled the top of the arena, which was put in to make Wells Fargo Arena a more intimate atmosphere back in 2010, was torn down. The wall hid about 4,000 seats around the upper ring of the arena. This should help ticket availability, now that both ASU Men’s and Women’s basketball are Top-25 competitors.
Coach Bobby Hurley stopped practice and gathered his team in the middle of the court at WFA and pointed out the expansion of seats to his team on Wednesday.
“Look, this is what you guys have done and you should be proud of that,” Hurley said to his team.
WFA now is utilizing its full capacity of 14,100, the third-largest arena in the PAC-12 behind Arizona and Utah.
Oregon (11-5, 1-2) comes into town off a loss to rival Oregon State after splitting their home series with the mountain schools by a score of 76-64, followed that performance with a 66-56 loss to Utah, and then there’s the most recent 77-62 showing where the Ducks beat the upset machine Colorado.
It’s important to note that this is the first time in almost a month that a road trip has taken the Ducks outside of Oregon in almost a month.
Oregon had a real tough time shooting the ball against Oregon State, managing only a 36.2 percent clip from the field and a 27.6 percent from behind the arc.
But the question that everyone wants to know is if this is the same Oregon team that made a run to the Final Four last season? No, The Ducks lost three starters to the NBA, Dillion Brooks, Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey, and nine total players from last season’s roster.
The lone returning starter from last year’s team, Peyton Prichard, has improved significantly since his freshman season. Prichard has increased his points, assists, rebounds, free-throw percentage, 3-point shooting percentage and overall shooting percentage from a year ago.
Despite the roster turnover, the Ducks aren’t devoid of talent. The freshman class has made an impact even with the Oregon’s turnover. Freshman Troy Brown is sixth in the PAC-12 in rebounding, freshmen Kenny Wooten Is first in the PAC-12 in blocks, and freshman Victor Bailey Jr. is averaging 7.9 PPG.
Fifth-year senior Elijah Brown has played well for the Ducks after transferring from New Mexico. Brown was an All-MWC player both years he played for the New Mexico. Brown is averaging just shy of 13 points a game and leads the PAC-12 in free-throw percentage.
Last season, the Sun Devils lost a nail-biter to then-No.13 Oregon in Eugene 71-70 before losing to the Ducks 80-57 in the second round of the PAC-12 tournament.
ASU has lost two in a row versus Oregon in Tempe and four in a row to the Ducks. Tip-off is for 8 p.m. from the Bank (Wells Fargo Arena) in Tempe.
TJ Mathewson is a beat writer for Blaze Sports covering ASU Men’s Basketball. You can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow TJ on Twitter @TJMathewson.