Various factors hinder ASU in home defeat

While the tough early season schedule may ultimately prove beneficial for ASU, sitting at 3-4 after the 67-61 loss to Richmond isn't exactly where the Sun Devil nation wanted or expected this team to be after seven games.

Poor shooting in both halves, and missed opportunities down the stretch (seven turnovers in the second half) cost the Sun Devils dearly in a very winnable game against a strong opponent. It's not difficult to realize the talent on the ASU roster, but right now nothing seems to come easy for coach Sendek's crew.

"I don't know if I can paint with a broad brush," Sendek commented as to the reason of his squad's current struggles. "I don't think it's one size fits all. We just don't have a large margin for error so every basket we give up, it seems like a touchdown instead of a basket. So we've got to be better.

The Sun Devils' zone defense under Sendek has been able to baffle ASU's opponents time and time again in the last four years. Thus far in the 2010-011 campaign it has been less than stellar on several occasions putting more pressure on an offense which is already struggling.

"I thought we had opportunities, but like I said we didn't convert some plays whether it was finishing or when we had open guys, hitting them at the right time and place," Sendek explained. "Obviously your defense needs to be really good if you're going to shoot 34.5 percent from the field, 33 from the arc, and under 70 from the foul-line.

"If those are the kinds of offensive numbers you're going to produce, it goes back to my touchdown metaphor: your defense has to be spectacular. I think early on, that's the kind of position we're putting our defense in. Not to say that we can't be much better on defense than we've been."

Sophomore guard Trent Lockett admits that the maroon and gold were simply out-played by their opponent.

"They played a good second half," Lockett said. "We had zero loose balls and they had three in the second half, they just out toughed us. We're right there we just have to do the little things. Free-throw box outs, rebounding in general and like I said loose balls. They played a good game, Richmond is a good team and they out-toughed us in the second half.

"I think we need to pick up our defensive intensity. We're playing a lot of young guys and they're still getting the hang of it. Every practice we've just been preparing for the next team but now we have a whole week to get ready for the next game and I think we're going to make some big changes. We just have to hit the reset button and come back strong."

Many will point to the 26-8 points in the paint advantage for Richmond as the key stat of the game, but with so few post-players, shooting 7-21 from behind the arc may have been a more telling stat for the Sun Devils.

"We've just got to keep working," Sendek said bluntly. "Right now we're playing three first-year post players. We don't necessarily score a lot of points in the paint. I don't know if I'm going to be able to magically cure that this week, but I thought Kyle Cain in the second half was terrific and you could see what a good player he is going to be."

While Cain shined, freshmen guard Keala King has had a tough adjustment so far to the college game. Foul trouble limited him on Sunday, and when he fouled out, his point total of four couldn't match his foul total of five.

"I wouldn't single out any of our young guys," Sendek mentioned. "I think our whole team is going through a learning experience, even our veteran players because they are integrated with so many new players, they are trying to adjust roles. All of a sudden the guys we relied on so heavily last year aren't here so even our seniors are kind of going through this period of adjustment, but I wouldn't say Keala, I would say all of our young guys are at the beginning stages of their learning curve."

The Sun Devils will now have just under a week to prepare for their next matchup Saturday against Gardner-Webb, which will ultimately provide the maroon and gold to regroup and improve, specifically on their defensive play.

Sendek used 11 players in the first half of Sunday's game, and throughout the early part of the season has been quick to make substitutions in an effort to find the right formula of players.

"We don't have right now a set rotation among the majority of our new guys," Sendek noted. "A lot depends on who happens to be playing well at the time or what is needed in a game, and obviously in a close game like this, especially playing 11 guys in the first half, we were able to go with our veteran players and a couple new guys at a time in the second half."

So the trial by fire to start the season for the Sun Devils may not be going as well as originally hoped, but with a few winnable games before conference play begins, there is still time for this team to clean up their mistakes and realistically pile up some wins this month.

"We can hope that we learn from every experience and we just keep working," Sendek offered, "and if you do that you have a chance to get better, but we put ourselves in a position to play a rigorous schedule and right now we're not capitalizing with wins."

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