Shooting woes doom Devils in season opener

When it was announced that the Sun Devils will begin the 2010-11 campaign on the road at New Mexico, it was widely believed that this contest could ultimately be baptism by fire. On Tuesday night the Lobos unfortunately delivered just that. ASU struggled to knock down their shots from near and afar as they fell 76-62 to New Mexico.

Arizona State (0-1) began the game looking anything but fazed by the fabled Pitt in Albuquerque. Trent Lockett, who scored a career-high 22 points, had a thundering tomahawk dunk to put the visitors up 10-3 at the 15:20 mark. After increasing the lead to 13-7 New Mexico (2-0) went on a devastating 20-0 run which ultimately was the turning point in the contest. Kyle Cain, who played the best out of all the newcomers who saw action tonight, helped off the bench for the maroon and gold and cut the deficit at halftime to 35-29. The true freshman finished with 8 points and 7 boards.

The Lobos were able to push their lead back into double digits early in the second stanza. ASU started heating up a bit behind the arc and were able to cut the lead to just 50-45 at the 11:45 mark. Alas, this is as close as the maroon and gold would get all night to reverse their fortunes. The hosts effectively exploited ASU's zone defense and scored seven of their nine three pointers in the second half and went on a 24-5 spurt to increase their lead to 20 points with just over two minutes left in the contest, eventually sending ASU to its first loss of the season.

The three ASU seniors, Ty Abbott, Rihards Kuksiks and Jamelle McMillan epitomizes their team's shooting struggles as they combined for 6 of 21 from the field and for the most part were pressing their shot and not being able to counter the defensive looks that New Mexico threw at them. Collectively the Sun Devils shot 40.7 percent from the field, 5 of 21 from three-point range and just 13 of 23 from the free throw line. Dairese Gary paced the Lobos with 18 points.

A pleasant surprise, let alone a positive the Sun Devils can take from this game, was their rebounding as they finished the night with a 34-31 edge on the glass, including 12 offensive caroms. McMillan and Lockett each had eight rebounds. ASU's five blocks were another unlikely, yet impressive stat of the evening.

There is little doubt that ASU will ever witness this season an environment more ruckus than what they encountered tonight and at least in theory this should pay dividends for this team later in the season, especially for its first-year players.

The Sun Devils return to Tempe to host Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 pm. The Blazers will undoubtedly present another early season challenge for ASU, but if the valuable lessons learned from tonight can effectively be implemented this weekend the Sun Devils should be able to notch their first season win.

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