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Arizona State Embracing Tight Games to Begin Season

When it comes to the score, players and coaches for the Arizona State Sun Devils believe playing in close games will pay off in the long run.

After defeating North Florida, the Arizona State Sun Devils are 2-1 through the team's first three games of the season. 

Neither of Arizona State's wins against UNF or Portland came with an exclamation point. Although the Sun Devils won by 16 to open their season against Portland, the game was well within reach for much of the second half until Arizona State pulled away. 

That was again the case on Monday against the Ospreys. 

As for the loss to UC Riverside, we're all aware of how that one ended. 

Now, Arizona State looks to depart the friendly atmosphere of Desert Financial Arena and make their first road trip of the season to San Diego State on Thursday. 

"I think just playing in close games is beneficial, when you get some work in when the game's on the line," head coach Bobby Hurley said following the win on Monday. 

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"In these types of games, you'd like to be up 15-to-20 points, get a chance for some other guys to play. But as it's turned out, these games have been closer and they've had more game pressure on them to execute and figure out how to close out a game. 

"Last game (against UC Riverside) was 1-10,000 (chances), on making a shot of that nature or else we're sitting here 3-0. But that's not the case, we're 2-1 and we've got a big game on Thursday and that's really where my mind's at right now." 

Guard Marreon Jackson echoed that sentiment following the game.

"I'm actually glad that we're getting these tough games like this, because it's going to teach us later on how to close games. That's very crucial especially in conference play at this level," Jackson said. 

"There's not gonna be too many games that are blowouts, it's going to be games where you have to grind it out, and this is teaching us how to do that early on. I'm not glad (about losing), but I am happy that the loss came early and this game right here teaching us how to close out games on the defensive and offensive end."

"It's early still," added guard DJ Horne. "It's a brand new team. Just can't look into it too deep. I know that we definitely had a lot of mistakes, but with more time together, you guys will see." 

That's the hope, that these sorts of early growing pains will ultimately help this Sun Devils team down the stretch of conference play and when it's time to find the coveted teams to play in the NCAA Tournament.