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Cousins, Gay lead Kings past young Suns 113-94

PHOENIX (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins scored 24 points, Rudy Gay added 22 and the Sacramento Kings beat the Phoenix Suns 113-94 on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams.

The Kings won an opener for the first time in three years and gave coach Dave Joerger a victory in his Sacramento debut.

Sacramento used an 18-1 first-half run to take control and was up by as many as 26 points in the third quarter.

Devin Booker, plagued by foul trouble, scored 18 points for the Suns. Eric Bledsoe added 16 and T.J. Warren had 14. Dragan Bender, the 18-year-old fourth overall pick in this year's draft, scored 10 points for Phoenix, all in the second half.

A lineup featuring all three Phoenix draft picks — first-rounders Bender and Marquese Chriss and second-rounder Tyler Ulis — got the Suns back within 10. Bender hit his second 3-pointer of the quarter and Chriss scored inside to slice it to 86-76 with 9:07 to play.

But Gay scored seven points and Matt Barnes had five in a 12-1 outburst to put the Kings back firmly in control 98-77.

Sacramento's reserves dominated their Phoenix counterparts to give the Kings their big first-half lead.

The Suns travel to Oklahoma City for the Thunder's home opener on Friday night.


Arizona State ready for next step under Hurley

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Expectations for Arizona State are not exactly high in Bobby Hurley's second season. Despite having what could be one of the conference's best backcourts, the Sun Devils were picked to finish 11th in the Pac-12.

Hurley doesn't want to hear it.

Buffalo was picked to be among the worst teams in the Mid-American Conference in Hurley's second season there and the Bulls went on to win the conference, earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Despite the Sun Devils' shortcomings this season, Hurley sees no reason to set the bar low in Tempe.

"I think we're as good as anybody," Hurley said. "That's going to put some pressure on my guys to live up to that. But I think they're more than capable."

Hurley's first season got off to a fantastic start, with Arizona State entering Pac-12 play at 10-3 after wins over Creighton and UNLV. The Sun Devils fell flat in conference, finishing 5-13 and 15-17 overall.

A big issue last season was that Hurley wanted the Sun Devils to push the pace, but he had a roster full of recruits from the previous coach, Herb Sendek.

This season, Hurley has more of his players on the team, so the pace should pick up.

Orchestrating it will be what should be one of the Pac-12's — if not the nation's — top backcourts.

Junior Tra Holder has already established himself as one of the conference's best guards in two seasons at Arizona State and Hurley has been impressed with his leadership during the offseason. Holder averaged 14.2 points and 3.7 assists in 2015-16.

Joining Holder will be Shannon Evans, a transfer who sat out last season after following Hurley from Buffalo.

The 6-foot-1 junior averaged 15.4 points and 4.6 points as a sophomore with the Bulls and Hurley says adding him will be like having a McDonald's All-American join the team.

"He's like a volcano that's building up for him. That guy's got so much passion and energy and it was all bottled up last year," Hurley said. "He did it on the practice floor and helped Tra get ready to play just by how good he was on the practice court, but the kid wants to play so bad. I think I'm going to have to calm him down the first few games especially because he's going to be so amped to play."

A few more things to look for from the Sun Devils in 2016-17:


Arizona filled with expectations despite turnover

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona's top recruit left to play overseas and its leading scorer may or may not be facing a suspension.

Looks like a down year at McKale Center.

Not a chance. Not with Sean Miller at the helm.

The Wildcats' coach never leaves his team bereft of talent and has another stacked team this season. It may take some patience early in the season while Miller figures out what pieces fit where, but expect Arizona to be in the running for the Pac-12 title and an NCAA Tournament berth by the time it's over.

"We have a lot of new players, we have a lot of returning players who won't return to the same role; we have players who will return to a different role," Miller said. "So it's going to take us some time."

Arizona entered last season loaded with expectations, its roster filled with veteran players and talented newcomers. The Wildcats won 25 games, but were upset by Wichita State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Arizona lost some key players from that team — Gabe York, Kaleb Tarczewski, Ryan Anderson — but does have a solid returning core.

It's unclear if Allonzo Trier, the Wildcats' leading returning scorer, will be suspended to start the season, but he's expected to take a big jump in his sophomore season.


Cardinals-Panthers matchup loses luster with rough starts

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers hosting the Arizona Cardinals was supposed to be a marquee matchup this Sunday.

It was slated as a featured game in the late afternoon time slot, a tantalizing rematch of last season's NFC championship game.

Then the Cardinals dropped three of their first five games. The Panthers fared even worse, losing four of their first five. On Oct. 12, the game time was moved up to 1 p.m. EDT, with Atlanta-Green Bay taking its place.

It was a by-product of two teams that figured to be top contenders for the NFC title now trying to revive their seasons. The Cardinals (3-3-1) are coming off a rare tie and the Panthers are 1-5 coming off a bye week.

"This team right now is in a totally different place than when we went over there last year for the championship, and hopefully we can go somewhere else for the championship," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "But this is next week's game, no more, no less. We've got to win."

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said it's surprising that neither team is the contender it was expected to be.