Progression evident in young season

To make sweeping conclusions after only two games into a season is premature to say the least. Nonetheless, following a 76-62 road loss at New Mexico and a 69-66 home win over UAB ASU head coach Herb Sendek and senior guard Ty Abbott are encouraged by the improvement the Sun Devils have shown in a short time.

"It was a great learning experience for us and I think our team definitely made some strides and improvements," Sendek said. "Even though we didn't convert, play our best or finish our best against New Mexico we still did some good things. Most importantly there were some things that were splashed on tape that we could learn from.

"I thought in Saturday's game against UAB we did some really positive things for the middle of November, things we can build on and learn from. I thought our guys really showed some guts. So playing against two good teams, two very competitive games was a great growing opportunity."

Abbott concurred with his coach.

"We have some learning to do but you can see improvement from game one to game two and that is always good," Abbott explained. "We had a lot of turnovers the first game and we cut it down to eight in the second game and that is going to be big for us. We need to take care of the ball and cherish very possession. And make the most of it.

"We still need to pick up our rebounding, but we will come along. That's what we do."

ASU is continuing to employ the motion offense they ran since last year, with some slight variations to fit this year's personnel and Sendek thus far pleased with the results on this end of the court.

"Guys are starting to see things better and I think we have really made a lot of progress recently with that," Sendek stated. "We still have to see things better, react to what the defense is doing better and that will always be the case especially with this type of offense. I think from a conceptual standpoint the guys are starting to put their hands around it."

With the team shooting just 21.1 percent from beyond the arc (8 of 38) Sendek obviously wishes the numbers were better than they are now. Having said that, he said that he is not concerned about the squad's three-point shooting at this point especially with the small sample set two games can provide.

"We are getting really good shots and we have good shooters," Sendek noted. "If we were getting bad shots and we had bad shooters I'd be more concerned. We have good shooters that have demonstrated in the past that they can make shots."

The trademark zone defense has gone through its own tweaking and had been extended at times creating pressure towards half court. Sendek claimed that he didn't know if this wrinkle is something that he will continue to use a consistent basis throughout the season.

"We think it has a possibility to complement some of the things we do on defense," Sendek commented. "Regardless of what we do schematically it always comes down to the same basic things guarding the ball and blocking out at the end of the possession."

Abbott sees this new approach as being disruptive to opposing defenses.

"It gets teams out of their set," Abbott said. "They can't come down, set up and find out where they are. You get them into the half court with about 27 seconds left, and then they have to set up and then they have to figures out how they will attack the zone instead of just walking it down and everybody gets into their spot.

"We have been trying to do this for a while and we finally have the personnel to do it now."

On Thanksgiving day ASU will open play at the Great Alaska Shootout when they play Houston Baptist, and if they come away victorious they will meet then the winner of Weber State/Alaska-Anchorage on Friday. Other teams in the tournament field include: Drake, St. John's, Southern Utah and Ball State.

Playing three games in three days naturally cuts down the recovery and preparation time for all teams involved, and Sendek realizes the challenge that lies ahead for his team in the next few days.

"Many teams in college basketball participate in these types of events once a year," Sendek said. "You just roll them up and go at it. You have to be able to handle whatever happens and quickly put it aside because the next game is on you right away. The longer you have between games the more time you have to put things in their proper place, reset yourself mentally and get ready to go."

When interviewed Monday, Sendek admitted to not being well versed yet on his tournament opponents but at the same time he believed that the preparations this week should have an emphasis on correcting his team's play.

"Right now the most important team we have to focus on is Arizona State," Sendek said. "There is enough in front of us that we can't deviate and spend too much time on the opponent. Every possession is just abundant with things that our team needs to see with respect for themselves.

"Every time we take the court we learn more about each other."

Abbott suffered a contusion on his right knee in the win over UAB and while he didn't practice this week he was expected to return to action on Thursday.

"I've had some knee bumps before and I have been able to get through it," Abbott said.

Whether Abbott is 100 percent or not in the tournament you can expect guard Trent Lockett to continue and shoulder the load for the Sun Devils. The sophomore leads his team with 20.5 ppg and 7.5 rpg.

"I like how they have come on the flow and the framework of what we've done," Sendek said of Lockett's numbers. "They haven't come just because he decided that he is going to be assertive and aggressive in a vacuum or irrespective of what the defense is doing.

"I think Trent is better across the board. He has really worked hard to improve. Like he said to me, it's amazing how different the game appears to him. He sees the game differently. He sees openings, he sees things developing in a way that he didn't see as a freshman and therein lies the value of having experience that we always talk about."

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