TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Romello White dominated inside. Rob Edwards poured in shots from the perimeter. Arizona State controlled the paint and won comfortably.
That’s not what had Bobby Hurley’s face turning red or his foot stomping the floor.
After a long stretch on the road, the Sun Devils returned home with a second-half clunker and their coach was not happy.
“We have to start getting it in gear, start trying to strive to play well so regardless of what the score is, you feel good about yourself after the game,” Hurley said after Arizona State’s 77-65 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday night. As much as we’ve been winning, I just haven’t been like, ‘Wow, this really feels great, this really looks good.'”
Playing their first home game since Nov. 17, the Sun Devils (6-2) were good in stretches, seemed to be going through the motions in others.
White had his way inside, finishing with 19 points and 14 rebounds while getting the short-handed Ragin’ Cajuns front court in foul trouble.
Arizona State used its size advantage to shoot 54% inside the 3-point arc — 6 for 26 outside it — and had a 38-20 advantage in the paint. The Sun Devils also scored 18 second-chance points on 16 offensive rebounds.
Edwards had 17 points and Remy Martin added 15.
“We need to get better defensively and we need to hit shots,” said White, who made 7 of 9 from the field. “When we play a team that’s better than that team, it’s going to be harder for us. We’ve got to lock down on defense and we’ve got to hit more shots.”
The young Ragin’ Cajuns (5-4) kept it close early despite playing without starting forward Kobe Julien due to injury, but struggled with turnovers and Arizona State’s size, particularly with their two starting forwards in foul trouble. ULL had 20 turnovers, leading to 22 points for the Sun Devils, but essentially played them even in the second half.
“They’re the best team we’ve played outside of Cal-Irvine and it was important we showed some fight,” Louisiana-Lafayette coach Bob Marlin said. “Our goal after getting down early was to win the second half and I think we tied.”
Mylik Wilson and Cedric Russell had 16 points apiece to lead the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Arizona State has been the road Devils during the nonconference season.
The Sun Devils opened in China against Colorado and stayed on the road most of the season’s first six weeks, logging more than 19,000 air miles and 95 hours traveling.
Arizona State outlasted San Francisco 71-67 on Tuesday and returned to the desert to get in a couple home practices before facing the Ragin’ Cajuns, who beat Southeastern Louisiana their previous game.
The Sun Devils had trouble finding the range from deep early in their return home, going 1 for 8 from 3-point range.
They made up for it with defense and overpowering the Ragin’ Cajuns inside.
Arizona State made 13 of its 22 shots inside the arc with Louisiana starting forward Dou Gueye limited to three minutes due to foul trouble and scored 18 points on Louisiana’s 13 first-half turnovers. Edwards and White had 11 points each to give the Sun Devils a 38-26 halftime lead.
The fouls began to pile up quickly for the Ragin’ Cajuns to start the second half with Gueye, Trajan Wesley and Jalen Johnson all picking up their fourth in the opening three minutes.
Arizona State stretched the lead to 19, but Louisiana trimmed it to 69-59 with 3 1/2 minutes left before the Sun Devils hit a couple of late layups.
“I thought we controlled the tempo the whole game,” Marlin said. “Arizona State is an explosive team. They’re obviously more talented than we are and bigger than we are, and outside the final two layups in the final minute, I thought we did a good job on them defensively.”
Louisiana-Lafayette played even with with the Sun Devils in the second half, but was doomed by the turnovers and offensive rebounds in the first.
Arizona State wasn’t exactly sharp in its return to the desert, but played scrappy defense and used its size to take down the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Heading into the season, Hurley had high praise for Alonzo Verge Jr., a transfer from Moberly Area Community College.
A prolific scorer in junior college, Verge has yet to live up to his coach’s predictions. A 6-foot-3 junior guard, Verge entered Saturday’s game averaging 7.0 points while shooting 24% from the 3-point arc.
He was mostly ineffective against the Ragin’ Cajuns, scoring four points on 2-of-7 shooting while missing both of his 3-point attempts in 23 minutes.
“He’s too talented to be playing the way he is,” Hurley said. “He’s just got to stop thinking or feeling sorry for himself when he doesn’t hit a shot. Just step up and be mature and start playing the way he’s capable of playing.”
Louisiana-Lafayette plays at Louisiana Tech next Saturday.
Arizona State hosts Prairie View A&M on Wednesday.
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