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Game day notes: ASU bringing improved defense into showdown with CU Buffs men’s basketball

BOULDER, CO, Feb. 24, 2022: University ...
Arizona State’s Alonzo Gaffney, seen here defending former Colorado forward Jabari Walker last season, has been part of an improved Sun Devils defense. February 24, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Even in the best of times under coach Bobby Hurley, Arizona State hasn’t necessarily been known for its stellar defense.

The early returns say that could change for the Sun Devils this season.

As Colorado and ASU tip off the Pac-12 Conference schedule on Thursday night at the CU Events Center (6:30 p.m., FOX Sports 1), the Sun Devils bring one of the conference’s stingiest defenses of the early weeks to Boulder.

CU head coach Tad Boyle gave much of that credit to the addition of 7-footer Warren Washington, who is a legitimate rim protector at the back end of ASU’s defense. Washington ranks second in the Pac-12 in blocked shots (2.0 per game). Washington also finishes well around the win, owning a .719 field goal percentage (23-for-32).

“They’ve always been aggressive in passing lanes and pressuring the ball,” Boyle said. “But the difference is this year I think is they have Warren Washington at the rim. He’s a big, 7-foot rim protector that blocks shots. So those perimeter guys feel like they can gamble more and be even more aggressive because they’ve got somebody there behind them.

“So we’ve got to be really, really strong with the ball. We have to have great spacing in everything that we do. And we have to be great decision-makers in the paint, and then great finishers.”

ASU boasted one of the stronger defenses in the league during the 2018-19 season, ranking second in the Pac-12 in defensive field goal percentage and defensive 3-point percentage. The Sun Devils dropped to seventh in both categories the following season and fell to 11th in both last season.

Going into Thursday’s league opener, ASU ranks second in the league in defensive field goal percentage (.340) and first in defensive 3-point percentage (.221).

No football addition

Boyle said there was no plan to welcome quarterback Drew Carter into the mix at practice for a few weeks, as was the case last year.

A dual-sport star in high school, Carter spent a few weeks practicing with Boyle’s club last year between the end of the football season and the start of the football offseason conditioning program in mid-January. That, however, was an arrangement Boyle worked out with former football coach Karl Dorrell, and Boyle said he has had no conversations with Carter or anyone on the current football staff regarding Carter’s hoops goals.


On Thursday morning, the Sun Devils (No. 52) and Buffs (No. 54) were neck-and-neck in the updated rankings at…ASU shot 9-for-17 on 3-pointers during its win at the Events Center on Feb. 24. A solid chunk of that damage was done off the bench by Luther Muhammad, who went 5-for-6 overall, 2-for-2 on 3-pointers, and 3-for-3 on free throws while scoring 15 points. It has been an odd start to the season this year for Muhammad, a fifth-year senior. He is averaging 12.9 minutes off the bench and is 0-for-6 from long range, yet is 16-for-17 at the free throw line…USC and Cal tipped off the Pac-12 men’ basketball schedule on Wednesday night, with the Trojans posting a 66-51 win in Berkeley. The remainder of the league plays on Thursday.