Second half defense carries ASU to home win

One of the biggest staples of the Sun Devils in the Herb Sendek era has been their suffocating defense, and unfortunately for their opponent tonight Long Beach State that trait revealed itself once again. The 49ers were limited to 25 percent shooting from the field in the second half as the maroon and gold used a 16-4 run early in that period en route to a 72-55 victory.

"We have great respect for Long Beach," said ASU head coach Herb Sendek. "We knew we had to play very, very well this afternoon to win the game. They're a veteran team that's really well put together. In particular they really score on offense; they put points on the board. They do it inside. They do it off penetration.

"So, I was particularly pleased with our defensive effort tonight. Having them shoot 33% (for the game), in addition having 18 turnovers, I thought that was really the key for us. It was probably the best constitution we had on that end of the floor in the second half so far this season."

In sharp contrast to the second half, Arizona State (6-4) struggled to keep Long Beach State (5-8) at bay. The Sun Devils shot well beyond the arc, 6 of 16, but were exploited in the paint by the 49rs. The hosts sent the visitors 13 times to the line and were repeatedly vulnerable to dribble penetration by the Long Beach guards.

Following a Ty Abbott three pointer ASU had a 20-14 lead at the 11:14 mark yet yielded a 10-2 run to trail Long Beach State 24-22 with 8:53 left in the period. Brandon Dunson's five points off the bench helped the Sun Devils climb back into the leader's chair as the hosts went down to the locker room with 34-28 edge.

The aforementioned 16-4 run, engineered mainly by Kyle Cain and Trent Lockett put the game away for good for the maroon and gold. Sendek stated that his team's play in the second stanza wasn't due to administering drastic changes in the last twenty minutes of the contest.

"Offensively, we just continue to talk really about the same things," Sendek explained. "I don't have any, tricks to pull out of my pocket. We just talk about making each other better, talking care of the ball, and taking good shots. In all of the manifestations of those things.

"It's not anything that we did. Not a really good play we ran or anything like that. We get in trouble when we don't do those three things."

Abbott paced the Sun Devils with15 points. Kyle Cain recorded a double double with 12 points and 16 boards – six of those caroms being offensive rebounds. Lockett was the only other ASU player in double figures with 10.

The most complete stat line of the night belonged to ASU point guard Jamelle McMillan who hasn't practiced since the Sun Devils' last game against Nevada and had a career-high six assists, to go along with eight points, five assists and four rebounds.

The Sun Devils just shot 41.5 percent from the field but had one of their best games at the charity stripe converting 83.3 percent of their shots (10 of 12). ASU controlled the glass to the tune of 41 to 35 and committed just ten turnovers, three in the second half. The 49ers were led by Greg Plater's 15 points.

Considering the quality of opponent, this may have been the most impressive win for Arizona State in their ten games this season. Sendek acknowledged that in the last two weeks he has seen his team take "baby steps" in improving and acknowledged that with school now out of session he expects that progression to only continue.

Nonetheless, the Sun Devil skipper is certainly not about to rest on his laurels after tonight victory, as the team prepares for their last non-conference contest this calendar year against North Carolina A&T Thursday at Noon.

"If you're not better in January and February than you are in December, you're not nearly going to be good enough," Sendek stated. "But we're making progress. I just want to be encouraging to our guys. I want them to continue to work hard. Sometimes you're making progress but don't have any results to show for, especially if you break it down to an individual level. If you just keep the right attitude and keep plugging away, hopefully around the corner you have your breakthrough.

"It's really important for our guys to embrace humility, understand that they still have a tremendous amount of work to do. And that way they'll stay hungry to a certain degree, I hope. We have very little margin for error. We'll have to play really well on Thursday again.

"Every game requires all of us, all that we have."

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