Sendek pleased with gritty victory

After opening the season with a loss at The Pit in New Mexico, the Sun Devils' 69- 66 win over UAB showed ASU fans a little bit more of what they will see from their team this season: an excess of hard-work and determination.

Trailing most of the game, and once again missing several three-pointers (probably the most surprising aspect albeit in a young season), the Sun Devils fought through the growing pains of a young team and rode the experience of their vets to get the win.

"We're really pleased to get a really hard fought win: A gut check for our team," coach Herb Sendek announced following the game. "Our guys were down but they really showed tremendous heart and resiliency in continuing to battle.

"There was a crucial time there in the second half when Ty went to the bench with an (knee) injury and the guys really pulled together and had a great run during that time period. Then Ty comes back and makes the big three. I thought Trent made one big play after another for us. Not only did he score and get to the line, but it was the attention that gravitated to him that allowed Ty to break open for the last three-point shot. But a good hard-fought bounce-back win for our team."

A rough early season schedule puts the Sun Devils in a tough situation with a bench full of nothing but newcomers as coach Sendek will try to find the right combination of players that give his team the best chance to win. While the vets will be relied on heavily, a lot will be expected of the freshmen and other first-year players as the season progresses.

"The one thing that our schedule is going to allow is for our guys to get baptized with fire," coach Sendek emphasized. "We put them in two really challenging situations here out of the gate. We have some great senior leadership and certainly we're relying heavily on the guys, who have returned, but there is no way around it, we only have four players on our team that played last year.

"We're going to necessarily have multiple new comers on the floor at the same time and they're going to have to respond and I'm sure as the season goes along different nights, different guys are going to be in position to step up for us. As a team we're still in a lot of ways at the beginning of our learning curves and we're excited about the possibilities for improvement, just look at guys in the past and how they've gotten better, I think Trent right now is playing with a lot of confidence and playing well."

While vastly undersized with Ruslan Pateev having foul trouble the first two games, the Sun Devils have shown a consistent effort by everyone on the team to hit the glass both offensively and defensively, most notably today was the play of 6'7" freshman forward Kyle Cain who finished with six total boards, three of which coming on the offensive end.

"I think our guys are battling on the glass, we still have to be better," coach Sendek pointed out. "It seems as though the last two games we've had a better presence on the offensive glass, as good as I can recall really.

"I couldn't be more pleased with Kyle," Sendek admitted. "He is a true warrior, plays with great heart and passion. What you see in the game is what he gives every single day in practice. He knows no other way other than to give his best and his improvement over the last four weeks has been nothing short of staggering."

Cain ended with 14 pts and six rebounds, Trent Lockett ended with 19 pts, seven rebounds, and five assists, but no number was more important than the final three points poured in by senior Ty Abbott, who left the game earlier with a knee injury.

"When he first got hurt I had no idea what the injury was," coach Sendek mentioned. "Anytime you hear knee and you look at someone's face anguishing in pain, you don't think real good thoughts. That's not something that leads me to a lot of positive thinking. So I was really relived to hear that it was a contusion, but even then I didn't know if he would come back.

"But we have such faith in him (Abbott) and he has such an enormous heart that he wouldn't let us take him out basically, he kept telling us he was OK and I'm sure glad he made that decision to stay in the game because he hit the big three."

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