Without knowing the final score, one would think the Sun Devils lost based on Sendek's comments and demeanor post-game. The team seemed to have filled some holes it had from the previous season, but like last season, defensive rebounding looks to be an issue once again for ASU.
"Obviously there are two things that stand out in an unfavorable light for us," Sendek said of the mistakes. "Number one: our defensive rebounding, allowing 17-second shots. We were annihilated on the glass. Johnson, number 24, did a fantastic job for them with seven offensive rebounds. It seems like they shot a much higher percentage than 34 percent from the field because every time they missed, they got another shot and sometimes a third shot, so I was really disappointed with our effort on the glass."
While the rebounding was atrocious at times, the 22 turnovers the Sun Devils had played a much bigger role in keeping the Bobcats in the game as the ASU lead never got larger than 12.
"Another thing that allowed the game to be hanging in the balance time and time again was our turnovers," Sendek said. "Careless, sloppy turnovers; 22 turnovers in the game, and that's way too many. We just didn't take care of the ball anywhere near the way we need to.
"I know I'm coming across as very negative right now, but it's fresh in my mind, it's raw, and those are the things that I know we've got to address to get better. Having said that, there were some good things, there really were, and we know Montana State is a good team."
One of the bright spots for ASU was junior forward Trent Lockett who collected 17 points on ten shots, and had a game high ten rebounds, looking every bit like the leader the Sun Devils hope and need him to be.
"I thought Trent Lockett played an outstanding game today," Sendek said of his star forward. "I thought he really put us on his shoulders with his toughness, as reflected by his ten rebounds, and allowed us to hold on for a hard fought win."
Helping Lockett carry the load were the two point guards, Chris Colvin and Keala King. Colvin looked like the perfect fit for the Sun Devil offense at times, getting plenty of players wide open looks, resulting in five assists, but his carelessness at times cost the Sun Devils as he contributed seven turnovers to the team's robust total.
When Colvin went out with foul trouble, King took over and showed a little bit of what the coaches and fans were hoping to see from him last season. A barrage of crossovers, behind the back dribbles, and explosive moves to the rim gave the team a second isolation scoring threat, not to mention his tenacity on the defensive end of the floor. King left no question as to who the team's second best player was on Friday afternoon.
"Obviously Chris did not have his best game," Sendek said of his starting point guard. "He was much better a week ago against Grand Canyon. He's been great all fall, you guys have been talking about that and writing that and obviously if you look at our guard play we had a preponderance of our turnovers there, but we also had a bushel basket full in the post.
"I think [Keala] has gotten much better with his ball handling. I think last year being thrust into the point guard position put a lot on his shoulders, but I feel much more comfortable with him putting the ball on the floor now. He's doing a good job in pick-and-roll for us and obviously his shooting has continued to get better."
As Sendek later pointed out, the team scored 78 points despite the 22 turnovers, so there is something to be said about the offense's ability to score. Still, the issues were glaring throughout, but when looking back, one needs to keep in mind that this is the first game and many teams have been struggling with early season matchups all around college basketball.
"It was their first game too, so we're not going to go there," Sendek said of the excuse. "These guys have all played enough basketball that they should all understand the importance of rebounding the basketball and some of the mental mistakes we made I have no explanation for because we should be more advanced than that by the time you get a scholarship to Arizona State.
"This week you saw St. John's have to eek out two come from behind wins at home. You see it in some of the exhibition games. It's early, so it's really incumbent upon us to get better in every way and we'll do that."