Men's Hoops (6-1) Has Noon Showdown Sunday With Undefeated Nebraska

Dec. 5, 2008

#19 SUN DEVILS HOST HUSKERS: The No. 19 Arizona State's men's hoops team, 21-13 and 9-9 in the Pac-10 last year and 6-1 this season under third-year head coach Herb Sendek, plays host to the undefeated (6-0) Nebraska Cornhuskers (Sunday, Dec. 7, at noon MT) on Fox Sports Net. The Sun Devils are 6-1 for just the second time in 16 seasons (11-1 in 2004-2005) and will try for 7-1 for just the second time in 18 seasons (since 1991-92, as ASU was 9-1 in 1990-91).

QUICK UPDATE: ASU, ranked in the preseason polls for the first time since 1991-92, won the earliest road game in school history (and just its fourth true road game in November in the past 26 seasons) 59-52 at San Diego State on Nov. 18 by making 9-of-13 (.692) field goals and 13-of-16 (.813) free throws in the second half, followed that up with one of the best defensive efforts in the past 60 years with a 61-40 win over Pepperdine on Nov. 23 and won two games in the 76 Classic in Anaheim over Thanksgiving weekend behind the All-Pac-10 duo of James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph. It then took care of Jackson State on Thursday 81-60 which included career highs in points (16) and three-pointers made (five) by sophomore Rihards Kuksiks. Harden is now averaging 28.4 points in the past five games while Jeff Pendergraph is in rhythym shooting, as he is 32-of-45 (.711) from the field and 28-of-35 (.800) from the free throw line.

BIG GAME JAMES: James Harden became the first player to earn Pac-10 Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks since Washington's Brandon Roy notched the feat in February of 2006 in three straight weeks this week. Harden became the first Sun Devil to score 40 points in a game with 40 against UTEP on Sunday (Nov. 30) since Eddie House had 40 vs. UCLA on Feb. 17, 2000, and just the third Sun Devil to notch 40 points (six occasions). Through 41 career games, Harden has led ASU in scoring 31 times, led it in rebounding 15 times and led it in assists in 16 games...has 21 career 20-point games (ASU is 17-4)...has three 30 +point games this year (33 vs. Pepperdine, 32 vs. Baylor and 40 vs. UTEP)...11-of-11 from the foul line vs. Charlotte and is 54-of-66 (.818) from the free throw line on the year and 223-of-290 (.769) in his career.

DEVIL DATA: After starting the season 2-of-14 (.143) from the three-point stripe in the first four games, James Harden is 14-of-18 (.778) from the three-point stripe in the past three games. He has 86 points in his past 68 minutes played and is averaging 28.4 points per game in the past five games. In that time the 6-5 sophomore is shooting .579 from the field (44-of-76), 15-of-26 (.577) from the three-point stripe and 39-of-46 (.848) from the foul line. He also is averaging 8.2 boards per game...the Sun Devils are giving up 61.6 points per game in Coach Sendek's 71 games, and after going 8-22 (.267) in his first year, they are 27-14 (.659) since...ASU is shooting .771 (121-of-157) from the free throw line. Last year ASU shot .739, the fifth-best mark in ASU history and second-best in past 21 seasons...Rihards Kuksiks had career-highs in points (16), rebounds (five) and three-pointers made (five) against Jackson State and is averaging 8.7 points in his past 19 games dating to last season with 42 three-pointers...ASU is 18-5 (.783) at home in the past two seasons, as it won 15 home games for first time in the 32-year history of Wells Fargo Arena last year which included wins over NCAA Tournament teams Arizona, Xavier, Stanford, USC, Oregon and Coppin State.

VS. NEBRASKA: Nebraska coach Doc Sadler was an assistant at ASU from 1994-97 and a member of Bill Frieder's staff in 1994-95 that went 24-9 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, ASU's best mark in the past 27 seasons...The series is tied at 3-3, as ASU has won both meetings in Tempe...last year Nebraska gave ASU fits in a 62-47 Husker win in Lincoln on Dec. 2...ASU committed 13 turnovers in the first half, a season high 19 in the game and did not have a player in double digits...Nebraska had 28 field goal attempts in the first half while ASU had just 16...Nebraska held ASU to one field goal over a 19:30 span...Nebraska trailed 21-14 with 8:31 remaining in the first half, but the Sun Devils didn't score again for the rest of the half and got just one field goal in the first 11 minutes of the second period as Nebraska took a 54-28 lead...the 47 points was a season-low for ASU as was the 38 field goal attempts and the 21 first-half points...James Harden had a career-high seven turnovers.

QUICK RECAP FROM LAST YEAR: ASU posted a 20-win season for just the fourth time in 27 years last year after being picked to finish ninth in the Pac-10 preseason media poll. The Sun Devils return their top seven scorers and 94.6 percent of their scoring in 2008-2009 led by All-Pac-10 selections James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph. ASU notched wins over RPI top-60 teams Xavier (9), Stanford (14), USC (28), Arizona (twice, 37) and Oregon (58). Freshmen made a league-leading and school record 96 starts, played more than 47 percent of the minutes and scored more than 52 percent of the points.

WAY TOO EARLY TO TALK ABOUT THIS, BUT SO WHAT: James Harden entered play this week third in the nation in scoring at 27.0 points per game (now 26.3). Since the league expanded to 10 teams in 1978-79, six Pac-10 players (seven occasions) have finished in the national top ten in scoring, with the most recent being Sun Devils (Eddie House in 1999-2000 and Ike Diogu in both 2003-2004 and 2004-2005).

STEADY JEFF: Jeff Pendergraph had 56 blocks last year (he had 45 in his first two seasons) and shot .593 from the field (third in the Pac-10) and .799 from the free throw line (tenth in Pac-10). He has 20 double-doubles in his career, including two this year. He is shooting .762 from the free throw line in his career (281-of-369). His 108 career blocks is sixth in ASU history. He became the 30th member of the ASU 1,000-point club against USC on March 1. He has 1,171 points in 98 career games (11.9 points per game) and 698 career rebounds (7.2 per game).

QUICKLY: Ty Abbott has two eight-rebound games this year, he grabbed eight rebounds in two games all of last year...ASU is 8-5 in the past two seasons in 10 points or less games under Herb Sendek after going 4-17 in his first year...Derek Glasser is 108-of-132 (.818) from the free throw line in his career...the MVSU game was the first time that ASU didn't have a freshman in the starting lineup since Dec. 10, 2005, a span of the previous 86 games.

HERE WE GO WITH JAMES NOTES: ASU is led in scoring by the most famous Sun Devil southpaw since Phil Mickelson, James Harden, who had an ASU freshman record 16 20-point games (seventh-best in school history and tied for third-best in the Pac-10) last year and has 21 20-point games in his career (ASU is 17-4 in those games)...the 19-year old Harden (born August of 1989) was the youngest player in the Pac-10 in 2007-08 and he led the Pac-10 with 73 steals...in ASU's four overtime games (all wins and three of them in Pac-10 games) he averaged 24.8 ppg and 5.5 rebounds and had 10 steals...in ASU's five Pac-10 home wins he averaged 23.4 points, six boards, three assists and two steals as he led ASU to 5-4 Pac-10 home mark. In the prevous four years, ASU was 9-27 in Pac-10 home games...was second on the team in assists (110), including 63 (3.5 per game) in Pac-10 games...in ASU's nine Pac-10 wins he shot 54.5 percent from the floor and was 13-27 from three-point stripe. He averaged 20.0 points and 5.6 boards in those games...shot 45.2 percent from three-point land in road games...through 41 career games, Harden has led/tied for the ASU lead in scoring 31 times and has done the same in rebounding on 15 occasions. He also has led or tied for the team lead in assists in 16 games.

USA TODAY #15 PRESEASON RANKING: ASU was 15th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' preseason poll (announced Oct. 30). USA Today started the poll in 1991-92 and that is the only year ASU has been in the preseason top 25, when it was No. 22.

AP PRESEASON RANKING: The Associated Press ranked ASU 15th in its preseason poll (Oct. 31), its first preseason AP ranking since 1991-92 (24th), the second-highest preseason ranking in school history (1963-64 team was sixth), and fourth time overall (other time was 18th in 1975-76). Last year, for the first time since the final poll of 1994-95 (March 13) ASU grabbed a spot in the Associated Press rankings, as it was No. 22 (No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches' poll) on Jan. 14. Coach Sendek had ASU in the rankings in his second year, two years prior to his rebuilding effort at NC State that resulted in five straight NCAA Tournament appearances (2002-06).

SLICK RICK (RIHARDS): Rihards Kuksiks averaged 26.6 minutes and 8.7 points in the final 12 games last year and made 25 three pointers. He posted a career-high 16 points (with a career-high five three pointers). He also posted 12 points and four three-pointers in the season opener vs. MVSU on Nov. 14 and 10 points and two big three-pointers in the win at San Diego State on Nov. 18. Last year, had 15 points in the win over seventh-ranked Stanford on Feb. 14, 15 at Washington on Feb. 23 and 10 in March 1 win vs. USC. He has 166 points in his past 19 games (8.7 ppg.) dating to last year after scoring 42 in the first 22 games.

GLASSER AT THE POINT: Derek Glasser made 58-of-69 (.841) free throws in 2007-08 and is 108-of-132 (.818) in his 71-game career. Glasser had 69 assists and 32 turnovers in Pac-10 play last year, a 2.16 ratio that was second in the league. He also has 267 career asissts (3.76), on pace to break the ASU career record of 454 set by Bobby Thompson from 1983-87.

AT HOME: ASU is 18-5 (.783) at home in the past two seasons, as it won 15 home games for first time in the 32-year history of Wells Fargo Arena last year. It is was15-5 with wins over NCAA Tournament teams Arizona, Xavier, Stanford, USC, Oregon and Coppin State.

TREE: Herb Sendek has eight former assistants who are D-I coaches as 12-year sidekick Mark Phelps earned the Drake spot after serving for 10 years on the staff at NC State and for two years at ASU. Former NC State sidekick John Groce also earned the Ohio University position. The others are Jim Christian, formerly at Kent State and now at TCU (Miami assistant from 1994-96), Charlie Coles at Miami of Ohio (Miami assistant from 1994-96), Larry Hunter at Western Carolina (NC State assistant from 2001-05), Ron Hunter of IUPUI (Miami assistant from 1993-94), Ohio State's Thad Matta (Miami assistant in 1994-95) and Xavier's Sean Miller (assistant at both Miami from 1994-96 and at NC State from 1996-2000). Coles, Miller and Matta led their teams to the 2007 NCAA Tournament, then last year Christian led Kent State to the NCAAs, Miller led Xavier to the Elite Eight and Matta's Buckeye squad won the NIT a year after going to the Final Four.

HITTING FREEBIES: ASU shot .739 from the free throw line last year, the fifth-best mark in ASU history and second-best in past 21 seasons. In his 10 seasons at NC State, Coach Sendek's teams led the ACC four times in FT percentage (including three straight seasons, 2002-04). In 2004 NC State led the nation and set the ACC record by shooting .799 from the charity stripe. While at NC State, his squads shot 71.3 percent. One good note on his 2003-04 NC State team is in the past nine seasons, that squad's .799 FT percentage is tied for the best in the NCAA with St. Joseph in 2005-06. ASU has led the league twice in free throw percentage, in 1997-98 and in 1986-87, shooting 74.6 percent both years. Two Sun Devils have led the league as Alex Austin was 69-of-80 (.863) in 1988-89 and Chris Beasley was 112-of-128 (.875) in 1983-84.

THE HEAD COACH: Herb Sendek is in his 16th season as a head coach and has averaged 18.7 wins per season. He led the NC State Wolfpack to five straight NCAA appearances from 2002-06 and is now 289-194 (.598) in 16 seasons and was 191-132 (.591) at NC State. The 45-year-old (born Feb. 22, 1963) Pittsburgh, Pa., native is the third-youngest coach in the Pac-10. Only Duke posted more ACC wins (regular season and ACC Tournament) than NC State's 53 victories from 2002-2006. Another overlooked note is his 10-year stay at NC State. To compare it to the Pac-10, since the league expanded to 10 teams in 1978-79, only five coaches have coached at their schools for at least 10 years: Lute Olson (24/Arizona), Ralph Miller (19/Oregon State), Mike Montgomery (18/Stanford), Ben Braun (12/California) and Ernie Kent (12/Oregon).

THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN A GOOD NOTE LAST YEAR, BUT WE MISSED IT, BUT IT IS STILL SOLID: ASU became just the second team in the 30-year history of the Pac-10 to lose at least 20 games one year (ASU was 8-22 in 2006-07) and then win at least 20 the next season (ASU was 21-13 in 2007-08). Only California in 1988-89 can match the feat, as it was 9-20 in 1987-88 and 20-13 in 1988-89. Miami (Fla.) also notched the feat last year, going 22-10 after going 12-20 in 2006-07, the first time in the ACC's 55 seasons that has happened. Texas A&M is the only team to do it in the 12-year history of the Big 12 , as it was 7-21 in 2003-04 and went 21-10 in 2004-05. Among the other major conferences, this manufactured note has never happened in the Big East (28 seasons), Big Ten (103 seasons) or the SEC (76 seasons).

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