Youth is served as Devils halt losing streak

With seniors Ty Abbott and Rihards Kuksiks out of the lineup, it was vital for ASU's newcomers to try and carry their squad in their home matchup against Washington State. The baby Sun Devils took the 5,153 in attendance at Wells Fargo Arena for a wild ride full of peaks and valleys on Saturday afternoon, which culminated in a dramatic yet sweet 71-69 victory over the Cougars.

It was an exhilarating win that snapped a streak of 11 consecutive Pac-10 losses and it had many contributing factors, including…a spirited pre-game meal?

"Our coaches, myself excluded, did a great job making sure the guys were ready to go," said ASU head coach Herb Sendek of Saturday's breakfast. "When we learned for sure that Ty wasn't going be able to play our coaches connected with our team early this morning and just really did a great job.

"In the locker room after the game, we talked about how we most certainly don't get to enjoy this moment without the contributions of Rik and Ty. Although they were in street clothes, their leadership and contribution on a daily basis helped put our guys in kind of the position they were put in today."

"It really started at breakfast," concurred Trent Lockett who paced the Sun Devils with 20 points and eight rebounds. "(assistant coaches) Coach (Lamont) Smith and coach (Scott) Pera coming in and yelling that we need to be ready to go. It was 8 o'clock in the morning and everybody is still trying to wake up and they put us on the right path. It started there and we came out and played with energy, and played hard all 40 minutes. It was putting a full game together finally."

In the first five minutes of the contest Arizona State (10-16, 2-12 Pac-10) has already scored a trio of three pointers, all of them assisted by Corey Hawkins. The true freshmen who started his first game of the season had a career-high six assists to pace the maroon and gold today. Chanse Creekmur who had an ASU scoring career-high of 18 today was 3-5 beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes

"I have always been ready to come in and do whatever it takes to win," Creekmur said. "I have been doing a little extra with coach (Associate head coach Dedrique) Taylor he has been helping me out. I'm definitely going to keep on doing what I'm doing."

The hosts had their first double digit lead of the day, 28-18, with 7:17 left in the half and when Lockett beat the buzzer the Sun Devils went down to the locker room with a 40-28 advantage.

Washington State's (19-10, 7-8) Klay Thompson was suspended for the first six minutes of the contest because he didn't arrive on time for the team's bus this weekend. After witnessing today's events, needless to say that this played a significant role in the final outcome.

Thompson scored just 4 points in the first half, and was clearly affected by the disciplinary action taken against him. However, he poured in 24 points in the second stanza creating many anxious moments for the ASU team and its fans.

The free-throw challenged Sun Devils had one of the best outings at the charity stripe today, knocking down 14 of 18. Nonetheless, all four misses from that range came during the last 1:43 minutes of the contest.

ASU never trailed the last 3:53 minutes of the game, but it was not until Abe Lodwick's three-point shot hit the rim with one second left in the game that the Sun Devil team and fans could breathe a great sigh of relief and enjoy their first Pac-10 home win this year and first overall victory since New Year's Day.

"That line is thin," Sendek acknowledged. "Obviously if that last shot goes in, we would be contending with a different set of emotions now. But in a handful of games we've been on the other side of that fence this year."

Aside from Creekmur and Hawkins another freshman who stepped up in a major way today was Keala King who had his own ASU scoring career-high with 10 points. Overall, 63 of the team's 71 points scored today were delivered by underclassmen.

"We had a number of young players step for us and really do some terrific things," Sendek stated. "I thought our guys played with great energy, a lot of heart and passion."

The resiliency of ASU, albeit through a long drought, is one trait that Sendek and his players have repeatedly talked about and demonstrated on and off the court. It was probably only fitting that this characteristic had to be manifested one more time during today's win where the Sun Devils surrendered a double digit lead and still be able to come back and triumph .

"When you have been losing as much as we have," Sendek explained, "you could see how easy it would be at that point especially with so many young guys playing to say at that point ‘uh oh, here we go again.' So I give the guys a lot of credit for their character having relinquished a lead, being on the ropes during this season as much as we have without two of our leaders, and to somehow some way to hang in there and find a way to win at the end.

"That is not an easy thing to do."

As sweet as this victory was today, Sendek is still keeping matters in perspective as the team will now face the Los Angeles schools on the road next week starting with UCLA Thursday at 9 pm.

"We will be true to ourselves and get back to work on Monday and prepare for the next game the best that we can," Sendek said. "Just like we have been doing each time we lost. It's a great day and we always talk about living in the moment. Monday, it will all start again. We take that philosophy regardless if we win or lose.

"This was a good win, but it's not an insurance policy for the future. We can build on the lessons learned no different than we've trying to do when we have been punched in the mouth."

"It felt great to get a win finally," Lockett said. "With the way things have been kind of going with that shot (going up) there I didn't have the best feeling. When it hit the rim a weight was lifted off my shoulders.

"We pulled it out and that's all that matters, right?"


Sun Devil Source Top Stories