"They did a good job of spacing the floor and moving the ball," said coach Herb Sendek. "Once again, with Williams in the middle he commands a lot of attention. But they did a good job off the dribble. They did a good job spacing and they made their shots."
The Sun Devils geared their defensive strategy around stopping Williams after he was able to pour in 31 points in the previous matchup between the two teams in Tucson this season. Williams only chipped in 11 this time around to go along with 5 rebounds, but had enough surrounding help to overcome his struggles.
"It was a completely different ball game," said senior Jamelle McMillan. "First game it was all in the paint. Tonight they took care of business from the three point line."
"We were trying to keep it tight; keep the ball out of the paint. They did a good job getting to the lane off the bounce and forcing two guys to help. When you do that and you have a guy shooting six for nine from three, you know, he did what he was supposed to do; put the ball in the hole."
The Sun Devils were undone Sunday by their own poor shooting, connecting on only thirty-three percent of their shots in the first half while finding themselves down by eleven.
"I thought in the first half we had some opportunities that we did not convert," said Sendek. "Once again, given the margin and their excellence on defense, they don't give you the wiggle room to not capitalize. So we go down ten and I thought we had a couple of opportunities that if we're going to be more competitive in a game like this, we need to convert better."
Seniors Ty Abbott and Rihards Kuksiks, who have carried the Devils throughout stretches of the season, both struggled against the Wildcats' active defense. The two players combined to shoot 4-19 from the field for ten points in what could be there final meeting with their biggest rival.
"We had some looks that normally Ty and Rik knock down," remarked McMillan. "We've seen them do it a million times. They couldn't find it today. And we missed some point blank shots at the rim on the inside."
"I think a lot of that was because of their defense. They do a great job helping. They play above the rim most of the time in the paint."
Sophomore Trent Lockett, who suffered a leg injury last week, also struggled throughout the contest. Despite contributing 10 points, he made only three of ten attempts and four of eight free throws.
"They do a great job of protecting the paint," he said. "My rhythm was just a little off. I'm at the basket, just got to finish it. It's a little frustrating."
The Devils will now turn their attention to next week's games, when both Huskies and Cougars visit Tempe, hoping to snap their ten game losing streak against conference foes and gain a little confidence; something Sendek feels the team is a little low on.
"It's very challenging, if not difficult, to have a lot of confidence when you don't have a great deal of success," he said. "That's why it's important for us to celebrate smaller victories. It's important to point out where we are doing well. At this point, when you haven't had a lot of team success this year, confidence can be a challenge. But I don't see our guys hanging their heads. They're showing up and working. The only way to attain confidence is to show up and continue working."
The senior point guard McMillan says he is even starting to feel the pressure to win from the mounting losing streak, but hopes to remain even keel heading into the new week.
"Obviously it's tough to be a senior in this situation," he commented. "If you had asked me in September if this would have been the case I would have said 'you're crazy.' It's where we are. It's the situation we've put ourselves in. We've got to get ourselves out. We're stepping up to the challenge."