Sun Devils race past Division III Banana Slugs in exhibition

Arizona State showed off some new players and familiar faces in a preseason tune up game at Wells Fargo Arena on Thursday, winning 98-53.

It wasn't the Banana Slugs who had a sluggish start to Thursday's exhibition contest between Arizona State and UC-Santa Cruz. 

Bobby Hurley's Sun Devils trailed 12-4 early before going on a 19-5 run in an eventual blowout of severely the severely outmatched Division III opponent. 

"I wasn't particularly enthusiastic with the first eight minutes of the game and how we came out," Hurley said. "Most times, you play that way, for that stretch of time, it's not going to be a great result. So we've got to certainly improve how we started tonight. But our energy got better as the half went on. I don't think we played a great half on offense or what we're capable of on offense. It was a good starting point, for guys who haven't played in a while, or incoming freshmen, this was a good dress rehearsal for when we start next week."

The defensive side of play is where Hurley was dissatisfied, primarily. An un-athletic opponent still managed to get to the basket off the dribble on a number of occasions. There was a lack of good defensive help rotation in addition to some porous on-ball coverage. That's something they'll have to work on and show significantly better at in games that count, starting next week on Nov. 11 against Portland State. 

"I'm not worried about the offense," Hurley said. "We didn't really run much of the offense tonight as far as what we've been practicing. I think we'll play more efficient on that end of the floor as the season starts."

ASU played all 10 of its eligible and healthy scholarship players at least 10 minutes. Newcomer Ramon Vila likely would have played more, but fouled out in just 10 minutes of action off the bench. 

The Sun Devils were led in scoring by senior Torian Graham, who came off the bench and made five of 10 three-pointers to finish with 23 points in 21 minutes of action. Graham hasn't played in two years. 

"I started off slow and I was like, 'I don't know what's going on,'" Graham said. "The coaches told me, 'just slow down, it's just been a while.' I was rushing a little bit, but after a while I just got in a flow."

Senior Obinna Oleka, who started at center in an undersized lineup with nobody taller than 6-foot-8, had 18 points. Junior point guard Tra Holder (15 points) and highly regarded freshman Sam Cunliffe (15 points) were ASU's other double figure scorers. 

"We try and practice hard and have the right culture,” Hurley said when asked about the team’s hustle in the exhibition game. “We talk about playing every possession of the game as hard as we can no matter what the score is. We just have to accumulate those types of possessions."

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