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Arizona State on upset watch against Northern Arizona

Sportsnaut
Mar 5, 2022; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils head coach Bobby Hurley reacts against the Stanford Cardinal in the second half at Desert Financial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State and visiting Northern Arizona head into their game Thursday between the intra-state schools in Tempe, Ariz., feeling very differently about their respective season openers.

The Sun Devils (1-0) are coming off a scare on Monday, when they outlasted Tarleton State 62-59, while the Lumberjacks (0-1) are feeling confident following a competitive loss at Michigan State the same night.

While Northern Arizona ended up losing by 18 points to the Spartans, 73-55, it played almost basket-for-basket with Michigan State in the second half in East Lansing, Mich.

A late 3-point play turned by Marcus Bagley, returning from a knee injury last year, followed a turnover that proved to be the difference for Arizona State.

Arizona State, led by Michigan transfer Frankie Collins’ 21 points, shot only 33.9 percent from the field and 14 of 29 from the free-throw line.

The Sun Devils recorded only 10 assists.

“They outplayed us, really,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “We were just fortunate enough to make some plays down the stretch and close the game out.”

Northern Arizona, playing its first game in a Big Ten arena, was led by Virginia Tech transfer Jalen Cone’s 20 points and 10 rebounds.

“The biggest thing our team took out of this is that you compete the whole time,” said Northern Arizona coach Shane Burcar, whose team shot 25.8 percent from the field in the first half when Michigan State built a 34-20 lead at halftime. “Something that Jalen has done since he transferred from Virginia Tech is he’s a great shooter, and he’s such a coachable young man.”

Northern Arizona and Arizona State will meet for the first time since the 2017-18 season, when the Sun Devils won 97-62.

The Lumberjacks upset Arizona State in the two previous matchups at Tempe — 75-71 in the 2006-07 season and 69-68 in 2011-12.

Hurley mentioned his team should be more focused for Northern Arizona coming off the close win against Tarleton State.

“I don’t think it was a real celebratory locker room and that’s on me, that’s on our staff,” he said. “We got to do a better job of making sure we’re prepared to play.”

–Field Level Media