December 28, 2015

TEMPE, Arizona (AP) Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley spent the holiday week grieving the sudden loss of his father-in-law. He twice traveled across the country for the services and missed his team's final practice before Monday night's game. 

The Sun Devils were far from sharp in his return, but they did enough to provide their first-year coach with another confidence-boosting victory heading into Pac-12 play. 

Tra Holder shook off foul trouble to score a career-high 23 points, hitting three 3-pointers in a decisive second-half spurt, and Arizona State beat Cal State Bakersfield 75-59. 

"I haven't deal with something like this in a while," Hurley said of the emotions of losing a family member. "It definitely affected our preparation some. That, coupled with giving the guys off three days, it's been a tough couple days for sure."

The Sun Devils (10-3) trailed by a point early in the second half and were tied when Holder got hot in a 14-6 run to make it 54-46. Gerry Blakes added 15 points and Arizona State showed how much it has grown from a season-opening home loss to Sacramento State. 

It meant plenty of smiles heading into Sunday's home matchup with No. 8 Arizona. 

"It did feel similar to the Sacramento State game," said Andre Spight, whose four-point play with just over 2 minutes left made it 65-55. 

"We had a crazy practice after that loss. So I think in the back of our minds we were thinking about that practice. We're not having that no more." 

Aly Ahmed scored 19 points and Jaylin Airington added 12 for the Roadrunners (8-5), who kept it close for much of the night by outmuscling Arizona State inside. Bakersfield held a 46-29 rebounding edge, but shot 37 percent from the field. 

Ahmed, a senior from Egypt, scored on a variety of post moves, putbacks and short jumpers while outworking the Sun Devils in the paint. Eric Jacobsen, assigned to guard Ahmed, had four fouls before the second half was two minutes old. 

"I thought our guys executed the way we needed to execute to put ourselves in a great position to win the game," Bakersfield coach Rod Barnes said. "But they hit some big shots and (Holder) stepped up and really shot the 3 well late."

Minutes after the Dec. 22 win over Stephen F. Austin, Hurley's wife told him her father had died as he prepared to travel to Arizona for the holidays. Hurley made two trips to New Jersey, returning to coach the team in Saturday's workout. 

He was fired up as normal on the bench, even picking up a second-half technical foul before Arizona State put it away. 

So six weeks after the shocking opening loss, Arizona State can boast of a 7-1 home mark, with wins over then-No. 18 Texas A&M, North Carolina State and at Creighton. 

"To be 10-3 with the type of schedule we had," Hurley said, "I don't know how many teams in the country would be able to say that." 

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TIP-INS

Cal State Bakersfield: A year ago to the day, the Roadrunners won at California 55-52 for the school's only victory over a Pac-12 school. . Kevin Mays had 10 rebounds. . Bakersfield first-year assistant James Alford played football at Arizona and was a graduate assistant football coach with the Wildcats and LSU.

Arizona State: Hurley picked up his second technical foul of the season early in the second half. . Assistant Levi Watkins ran practice Sunday in Hurley's absence. . Jacobsen had to be treated for a turned ankle and a bloody nose in the first half, but returned both times. 

STILL NO GOODMAN

Sun Devils guard Savon Goodman, averaging 12.4 points and 7.9 rebounds, was seen in street clothes at the arena before missing his fourth straight game for what the school has called "personal reasons."

UP NEXT 

Cal State Bakersfield hosts Morgan State on Thursday. 

Arizona State hosts Arizona on Sunday, marking the second straight year the conference opener is against the in-state rival. 

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