No. 18 Arizona State has returned to Tempe, Ariz., from its Thanksgiving trip to Uncasville, Conn., where it split games against Rhode Island and No. 3 Villanova, to host Houston Baptist on Sunday at Desert Financial Arena.
The Sun Devils (1-1) are coming off an 83-74 loss to Villanova on Thursday in which they were outrebounded 43-27.
Freshman guard Josh Christopher had 28 points and Alonzo Verge Jr. scored 22 while adding seven rebounds. All-Pac-12 performer Remy Martin was held to just five first-half points on 2-for-8 shooting.
ASU had a difficult time getting into transition with just 11 fast-break points against Villanova.
Christopher, the program’s first McDonald’s All-American recruit since James Harden, made 11 of his 17 shots.
”I think he showed you a glimpse of what he’s capable of,” ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. ”It was just a heck of a performance by a freshman, playing against one of the best teams in the country.”
Martin, who had 26 points in a 94-88 win over Rhode Island on Wednesday, took just two shots in the second half against Villanova, missing both. He also had only two assists and one steal.
ASU had a poor start against Villanova with just one assisted basket in the first half, which Hurley attributed primarily to poor perimeter shooting that included just 2-of-13 from behind the 3-point arc, including 1-of-4 from Martin.
“We didn’t connect well and playing a team of their caliber, you can’t afford to miss that many shots that are fairly open,” Hurley said. “You can’t get assists if you don’t make the shots, so that was the issue there. We’re built as a team that needs to convert and needs its offense to play well in order to beat a team like Villanova.”
Houston Baptist lost its season opener 69-45 at TCU on Wednesday.
The Huskies’ season got off to an inauspicious start. They missed their first 12 field-goal attempts while TCU built a 15-0 lead over the first 7:23 of the game.
Houston Baptist junior transfer Pedro Castro, who has played at UT Arlington and Blinn College, finished with a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds — both career-high totals — against TCU.
The Huskies made an improvement with their defense against TCU after ranking last in Division I last season allowing 93.9 points per game. The Horned Frogs made 45.9 percent of their shots from the field and only 26.9 percent from 3-point range.
“As bad as everything ended last year, there is a hunger to get better, individually and as a team,” Houston Baptist coach Ron Cottrell said. “I feel better about our focus, our intensity, the way guys are going about playing defense. We had to improve in that area, and we still have a team that can really score the ball.”
The Huskies are also trying to adapt without guard Ian DuBose, who transferred to Wake Forest after leading them in scoring (19.0 points per game), rebounding (7.3) and assists (3.8) last season.
Cottrell is the fifth-longest tenured coach among active NCAA Division I head men’s basketball coaches, in his 30th season leading the Huskies with a career record of 491-433.
–Field Level Media