Men's Hoops Faces Nation's Best Defense
Feb. 27, 2009
ASU FACES COUGARS: The No. 14/11 (AP/ESPN Coaches' Poll) Arizona State's men's hoops team, 21-13 and 9-9 in the Pac-10 last year and 21-6/10-5 this season under 304-game winner Herb Sendek, plays the Washington State Cougars at 2 p.m. PT/3 p.m. MT on Saturday, Feb. 28, on Fox Sports Arizona and ESPN 860 AM. The Sun Devils had their five-game Pac-10 win streak (best since 1994-95) snapped Thursday at Washington in a 73-70 hard-fought overtime loss. ASU held the Huskies to 38.3 shooting (23-of-60), battled them to almost even on the boards (41-38 in favor of UW), shut down their three-point shooting (2-of-17) and played the turnover-game almost even (ASU had 16, UW 15), but the Huskies were 25-of-31 (.806) and the Sun Devils 9-of-13 (.692) from the free throw line. Jeff Pendergraph had 24 points and 13 rebounds while James Harden (who enters Saturday's game 16th in the nation at 21.1 points per contest) added 19 points, five boards and five assists. ASU has clinched back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since the 1979-80 team went 22-7 and the 1980-81 team went 24-4, a feat that becomes more impressive when you consider ASU has not had back-to-back winning seasons since the 1993-94 team went 15-13 and the 1994-95 team went 24-9.SOLID TEAMS: The WSU-ASU matchup is a meeting between two teams who don't turn the ball over and play solid defense as WSU is best in the Pac-10 in turnovers at just 11.4 per game (11th in the nation) while ASU is 24th in the nation and second in the league at 12.0 per game...WSU ranks first the in the league in field goal percentage defense and 15th in the nation at 38.8 percent, while ASU is second in the league allowing just 40.5 percent...WSU ranks first in the nation, allowing just 55 points per game, while ASU is second in the Pac-10, allowing just 59.4 points per game (17th in the nation), the best by a Sun Devil squad since 1948-49 (.47.6).JEFF PLAYING WELL: Jeff Pendergraph, who earned his B.S. in Economics in December in just three and a half years and has 112 career starts (second-best in ASU history behind only Eddie House with 114), has been one of the best players in the Pac-10 the past month, averaging 16.4 points and 10.6 boards in his past seven games while shooting 67.8 percent from the floor (44-of-65) and 77.1 percent (27-of-35) from the free throw line. In his past nine games, he is averaging 14.9 points and 10.9 boards while shooting 62.2 percent from the floor (51-of-82) and 74.4 percent from the line (32-of-43). He remains the nation's leader in field goal percentage at 66.5 percent and has posted nine double-doubles on the year including the past three games.THREE DOT DATA: ASU leads the Pac-10 in assists (16.0 per game/25th in nation) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.34/14th in nation)...Coach Sendek, the second-youngest active coach with 300 Division I wins, celebrated his 46th birthday last Sunday as ASU completed an impressive sweep of Arizona for the second straight year with a 70-68 win, ASU's first four-game win streak over the Wildcats since a nine-game streak from 1979-83...the Arizona win was following a solid home sweep of the Los Angeles schools the previous weekend. ASU ended one of the most impressive streaks in Pac-10 history on Feb. 12, as UCLA had won 32 straight front-end games of Pac-10 weekends (in other words, the Thursday game in most cases), a streak dating to a Jan. 20, 2005 home loss to Stanford, before ASU shot 60 percent (24-of-40) from the floor, 11-of-18 (.611) from the three-point stripe and 15-of-18 (.833) in its 74-67 win over the No. 11 Bruins...on Feb. 15 against USC, ASU shot 50 percent (22-of-44) and committed just four turnovers, its fewest since it had just four vs. Oregon State on March 9, 1991...sophomore Rihards Kuksiks is shooting 47.0 from three-point land, fourth in the nation per official NCAA standards (minimum of 2.5 made per game)...after going 8-22 (.267) in Coach Sendek's first year, the Sun Devils are 42-19 (.689) since.PAST TWO SEASONS: ASU is 19-14 (.576) in the past two Pac-10 seasons, the second-best mark in the league behind UCLA at 26-7 (.788). The rest of the Pac-10 in the past two years: Washington 19-15 (.559), USC 18-15 (.545), Washington State 18-16 (.529), Stanford 17-16 (.515), Arizona 16-17 (.485), Cal 16-17 (.485), Oregon 10-23 (.303) and Oregon State 7-26 (.212).NIFTY ROAD NOTE: With its Oregon road sweep Feb. 5-7, ASU (6-3 on the road overall) won four straight Pac-10 road games for the first time since the 1980-81 team won five straight. The 1980-81 team had three starters become NBA first round draft picks in Alton Lister (21st overall pick in 1981), Fat Lever (11th overall pick in 1982) and Byron Scott (fourth overall pick in 1983). ASU has top-60 RPI road wins over UCLA (33), Arizona (49) and San Diego State (54). ASU also has top 100 out-of-league wins over #22 BYU (10-0 at the time) and #81 UTEP at neutral sites and vs. #73 Nebraska (6-0 at time of game) in Tempe. ASU has won five Pac-10 road games for just the fifth time in its 31-year history. It went 8-1 in 1980-81, 7-2 in 1979-80 and 5-4 in 1994-94 and 1982-83.WINNING CLOSE ONES: ASU has the best record in the Pac-10 in games of five points or less, as it is 4-1. UW is 4-2, Cal 3-2, OSU 6-5 while UCLA (4-4) , WSU (3-3) and Oregon (3-3) are at .500. USC is 5-6, Arizona 3-4 and Stanford 0-4.STATS LLC DOES IT AGAIN: The folks at STATS LLC worked overtime on this one. James Harden is arguably one of the nation¹s best all-around players, averaging 21.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game while shooting 51.9 percent from the field. Since 1996-97, only five players have averaged at least 20 points, five boards and four dimes per game and shot over 50 percent from the field.20-5-4-50 PERCENT CLUB (SINCE 1996-1997)Ricky Minard, 2002-03 Morehead StateDwyane Wade, 2002-03 MarquetteBrandon Roy, 2005-06 WashingtonReggie Williams, 2006-07 Virginia MilitaryGeorge Hill, 2007-08 IUPUIRECENT HAPPENINGS: ASU swept UCLA for just the third time in school history (also in 1979-80 and 2002-03)...ASU swept the Oregon road trip Feb. 5-7, its first Pac-10 road sweep since January of 2005 and just its second Pac-10 road sweep in the past six seasons...ASU made 16-of-17 (.914) free throws at Oregon on Feb. 5, the third-best percentage in school history with a minimum of 15 attempts...ASU is shooting 78.2 percent from the foul line (113-of-146) in its nine road games...ASU leads the Pac-10 in three-point defense, allowing just .319...in the home sweep of UCLA and USC Feb. 12-15, junior Derek Glasser averaged 16.5 points, including a career-high 18 points vs. USC.300: Even with a resume that includes coaching in 502 games at three schools, six NCAA tournaments, 12 NCAA Tournament games and having eight former assistants currently serving as head coaches at the Division-I level, ASU head coach Herb Sendek is still the third-youngest coach in the Pac-10 even with two new hires this year. Oregon State's Craig Robinson is a little older than Coach Sendek (about 10 months) while Stanford's Johnny Dawkins is about seven months younger. Coach Sendek is the second-youngest active coach with 300 Division I wins, only Florida's Billy Donovan is younger, as he is 43 years old (born May 30, 1965).NO TO's: ASU had just eight turnovers in the overtime win at UCLA on Jan. 17, the fewest turnovers on the road since Feb. 12, 2005, when it also had eight at USC in an 82-71 loss. Derek Glasser had zero turnovers in 42 minutes. ASU followed that up with nine turnovers at Arizona on Jan. 21, and then had just six turnovers vs. Washington State on Jan. 29, its fewest turnovers since it also had six vs. Oregon on Feb. 19, 2005. But its top performance was its four turnovers vs. USC on Feb. 15, fewest in a game since ASU had just four against Oregon State on March 9, 1991. ASU is averaging just 10.9 turnovers per game in its past 10 contests and is 24th in the nation and second in the Pac-10 at just 12.0 turnovers per game.SOLID: Derek Glasser, who took a shot to the back on a pick and suffered a neck strain against UO and then sat the OSU road win on Feb. 7, played 42 minutes without a turnover in the Jan. 17 overtime win at ninth-ranked UCLA and followed that up with clutch shots at Arizona on Jan. 21 and vs. No. 11 UCLA on Feb. 12. He is 159-of-191 (.832) from the free throw line and has played 18 turnover free games in his 90-game career. In Pac-10 games he is 22-of-52 (.423) from the three-point stripe and 45-of-50 (.900) at the free throw line.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, and is shooting at that pace this year. In his 10 seasons at NC State, Coach Sendek's teams led the ACC four times in FT% (including three straight seasons, 2002-04). In 2004 NC State led the nation and set the ACC record by shooting .799. While at NC State, his squads shot 71.3 percent.AUTOMATIC: Sophomore Rihards Kuksiks is averaging 11.4 points, including 59-of-124 (.476) from the three-point stripe, in his past 20 games. He has 22 double-figure scoring games in his past 38 contests dating to last year after scoring 42 points in his first 22 games. He has posted double digits in 13 of his past 18 games.WINNING TOUGH ONES: ASU is 15-8 in the past two seasons in 10 points or less games after going 4-17 in Herb Sendek's first year...after going 10-29 in Herb Sendek's first two seasons when trailing at the half, ASU is 4-2 this year with victories at SDSU, vs. IUPUI, vs. BYU and at Arizona...ASU had won six straight overtime games, with four of them away from its home arena, before falling at Washington on Feb. 26...in ASU's first season under Herb Sendek, it was 3-12 in two-possession games (six points or less), in the past two seasons it is 11-5 including 5-1 this year...after losing its first 10 away from home (neutral or road) in the Herb Sendek era, ASU is 17-13 since, and is 10-8 in Pac-10 road games after losing its first eight.BIG GAME JAMES: James Harden, the most heralded Sun Devil southpaw since Phil Mickelson, became the first Sun Devil to score 40 points (against UTEP on 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 61 career games, Harden has led ASU in scoring 43 times, rebounding 18 times and led it in assists in 26 games...30 career 20-point games and 14 this year (ASU is 24-6/11-3)...five 30 +pointers this year (33 vs. Pepperdine, 32 vs. Baylor, 40 vs. UTEP, 30 vs. BYU and 36 at Oregon)...the 19-year old Harden (born August of 1989) was the youngest player in the Pac-10 in 2007-08 and led league with 73 steals.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.