Devils earn much needed victory

The Devils came into tonight in need of some direction, an identity, and a victory. At least they were able to get one of the three after defeating the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes 69-59.

Led by guard Ty Abbott, the Devils jumped out to an early lead and imposed their will upon the Hurricanes throughout much of the contest. Abbott scored 15 of his game high 23 points in the first half as the Devils exploded for a season high 45 points and controlled a twenty point lead by intermission.

"We made a point to come out and play hard and give a lot of effort. When you do that, the rest kind of takes care of itself," said the senior.

Abbott, who finished with a career high in assists 5 and a team high 9 rebounds, to go along with seven made three pointers (three shy of the school record), credited his teammates for his performance.

"My guys got me good looks. I did a good job of moving and they did a good job of screening for me and hitting me right when I was open," Abbott said of his performance. "I just got some good looks and they went in."

After the game, head coach Herb Sendek spoke glowingly of his senior's effort and his ability to lead the struggling Devils to the non-conference win.

"Ty was spectacular," he commented. "He played like the first-team all-conference guard that he is. And he clearly carried the torch for our basketball team.

"The other guys were able to feed off of that. It gave everybody a boost of confidence."

Helping pace the Sun Devil attack Wednesday night was sophomore swingman Carrick Felix, who chipped in a career high 21 points and recorded 5 rebounds as the Sun Devils improved their overall record to 9-7 (1-3 conference). The emergence of Felix is something that both he and his coach credit to his overall comfort in the Sun Devil system.

"I think my confidence has grown through the season," Felix reflected. "Having guys like Ty, Trent, Jamelle, and Rik push me every day and keep talking to me and telling me everything is going to be alright has helped me a lot. Every day in practice, just giving it my all; having my team have my back. I'm starting to get the hang of it, starting to feel more comfortable now.

"I thought he really came out of the gates fast," said Sendek of Felix's progression. "He was wide-eyed and not really sure how things worked. He said 'I better work really hard every second of every day just to see if I can even exist here.

"And then I thought in the early part of the season he took a detour and drifted away a little bit and the reality of college basketball was kind of coming at him. Now he's kind of re-grouped and is a lot more comfortable with things."

The unsung hero of the night though was former walk-on Marcus Jackson, who made his first career start as senior Jamelle McMillan sat out again with a groin injury. In 35 minutes, Jackson was able to contribute 3 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals, and earned high praises from his coach after the game for his performance.

"When you think about it, what he's done is relatively amazing," commented Sendek. "He goes from never playing at all, and we've literally thrown him in the pool with his clothes on, and his shoes, the last two games...and now he's cramping and we're telling him 'to heck with you, stay out there anyway.

"He basically played the whole game and fought through cramps to do it, and did a good job."

A combination of high energy and efficient shooting helped the Devils jump out to an early lead, one that stretched to as much as 23 points during the early stages of the second half, which allowed the Devils to relax a bit and enjoy a comfortable win before Saturday's contest.

"The biggest difference tonight is that we made shots," said Sendek. "It propelled even our defensive energy. It's amazing what putting the ball in the basket can do for you."

For the game, the Devils shot forty-one percent from both the field and the behind the arc. Surprisingly, they were also able to convert on 13-16 free throws while protecting the ball to a tune of a season low seven turnovers.

"It was big, not only for the win, but the way we all played together," said Abbott. "We haven't really had a game where we're all clicking from all areas. That was kind of the most in sync game we've had.

"Going into the game we just all came together and knew what we had to do, to kind of set the tone," stated Felix. "We sat there and talked about it, and then just did it."

With a win under their belt, the Sun Devils can now turn their attention to Saturday's showdown with arch rival Arizona. Already facing an uphill battle in conference play, both the players and coaches know what's at stake and how a victory can turn around the fortunes of the Sun Devils.

"It's going to be something special. It's going to be a good environment," said Felix, who's set to experience the rivalry for his first time. "It's going to be something where we as a team need to step up and just come together. Come one as a fist and actually take care of business. We've been through ups and downs in the season, now is the time on Saturday to take care of business."

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