Inconsistent intensity still an issue for ASU

On Saturday, the Sun Devils continued to slide further down the Pac 10 standings as the Cal Golden Bears dispatched the Devils at Wells Fargo Arena, 65-61.

The Sun Devils were able to climb back from an eight point margin at intermission and even the score at 40 before quickly falling behind again by a couple scores after some erratic play on both ends of the court. Abbott credited the intensity and focus of the Sun Devils coming out of the break for the comeback.

"We kind of had our backs against the wall and it kind of woke us up a bit and that's the biggest thing that's killing us; not having that same effort, that same intensity, throughout the whole entire game," said Abbott. "if we do that consistently, over the entire game, we'll win."

Trailing by three with just over 40 seconds remaining in the contest, the Sun Devils found themselves in a position where Abbott has excelled throughout his career, coming through in the clutch. However, despite having four shots at a tying basket, the Sun Devils came up short. Abbott said after the game he felt good about his looks, and expressed his disappointment over the outcome.

"I felt great about them, until they didn't go. I couldn't ask for anything more," said Abbott. "Guys set multiple screens for me and I got some looks. They didn't go."

"We had a couple really good looks there at the end," coach Herb Sendek pointed out. "Couldn't have gotten better looks in that situation. Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn't, but as we always say in sports: you can't magnify that possession, it had no more weight or value than any of the others that came before it throughout the game, and there were certainly opportunities to do better, to do differently throughout the course of the game."

After falling behind by double digits in the first half, the Sun Devils employed various forms of a full court press in order to pressure the Golden Bears into costly turnovers and erratic play. While the press, and perhaps most importantly, the play of Abbott, helped the Sun Devils briefly erase the deficit, it ultimately was unable to stymie the Golden Bears enough to take the lead.

The full length press is a look sophomore guard Trent Lockett says the team has practiced throughout the year, but chose to enforce it today as a means to a dire situation.

"We started in our '1 press' just because we felt we needed to take some time off the shot clock and try to just slow them down. We've been working on it all year and just tried it today," said Lockett.

After two-straight games under ten points, Abbott broke out Saturday hitting four three-pointers and leading the team with 18. While there was a concerted effort to get the senior open by his teammates, the Sun Devils needed more than one guy getting hot to win this one.

"I thought Ty really got going for us and that was probably as much a difference as anything," Sendek mentioned. "Ty really stepped up especially in the second half and got us going. I thought that was really important and a key."

Unfortunately for the Devils, if the team is going to find its winning stride once more, it'll need to address some of its glaring deficiencies, primarily rebounding and interior defense. Cal out rebounded ASU 43-27 and outrebounded them 18-8 on the offensive glass alone.

"Rebounding the last two games has been a real problem for us, and it's not just the responsibility of our ‘big guys' to rebound," Sendek declared. "Everybody has to wear a hard-hat and have a gang-rebounding mentality. Everybody has to participate in that.

"You have to credit Cal. They did a good job. I thought that had great balance and production throughout their unit. Most certainly anchored in the backcourt by Jorge and Allen Crabbe, and I thought Brandon Smith did a nice job dictating things for them. Their frontcourt was just terrific. Both guys posted double-doubles. I know Kamp was one rebound short, but for all intensive purposes their production was significant."

"We're going to have to send all five; put three on one big man and two and the other. It's the same story every game," said Abbott. "They were big, they were physical down there. They got the boards."

Once again without Jamelle McMillan, Sendek played point guard Marcus Jackson 15 minutes against Cal, which is 15 minutes more than he's played in game all season. Jackson's statistics were almost non-existent, but he seemed even keeled enough to keep the team from imploding at times when it could have.

"I thought he gave us the best chance to win today, especially with Jamelle being out," Sendek said of Jackson. "Marcus has worked very hard to improve and I just thought he gave us the best shot at it today.

"I don't think we've shown ourselves to be a real crisp, efficient passing team. I don't know that that's strength of ours right now. We don't have fluidity of our passing. I don't think it's a function of knowing the offense or anything else other than seeing the game as it unfolds in real time and making good decisions and passing the ball well."

For now, the Sun Devils will have a few days of practice before playing their final non-conference game this season against Tulsa on Wednesday night. For the Sun Devils, that game can't arrive soon enough as they search to get back to their winning ways.

"Obviously it's tough coming off two hard losses but we're just ready to get back in the gym and get this taste out of our mouth and get ready for Tulsa."

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