Another second half collapse for Sun Devils

An old sports cliché states that it's not how you start, it's how you finish and these days the ASU basketball team is a painful living proof of that saying. The Sun Devils who shot 57.7 percent in the first half and held a 12-point halftime lead were once again unable able to sustain that effort dropping their third straight home contest, falling 68-65 to Fresno State.

Arizona State (4-8) shot just 31.8 percent in the second half and was outscored by Fresno State (5-8) 42-27 during that period as the Bulldogs converted six of eight shots from beyond the arc.

"I don't think we came out and played very well at all in the second half," said ASU had coach Herb Sendek. "I thought we did some really good things in the first half. But on offense as well as on defense (in the second half) we just didn't play with great purpose."

Following a three-point basket by Trent Lockett ASU held an 21-10 advantage at the 11:20 mark of the first half, and was leading by double digits the rest of the period seeing their lead swell to 38-21 with 1:52 left in the half. The Bulldogs ended the half on a 5-0 run which at the time seemed insignificant but ultimately was a prelude for the aforementioned struggles.

Sendek didn't feel that lack of halftime adjustments was the reason for the team's paltry second half performance.

"It's about passion," Sendek explained. "It's about energy. It's about executing fundamentals. It's about concentrating. It's not schematics."

With 15:27 left the game, the Sun Devils led 44-34 and saw the visitors go on a 10-0 run to tie the game at 44-44 at the 11:30 mark. With 8:00 minutes left The Bulldogs led 53-47, but a three-point play by Keala King followed by another basket beyond the arc for Lockett gave the hosts a 62-59 edge with 2:23 left. Kevin Olekaibe, who led the visitors with 30 points, had two long range baskets of his own that ignited a 9-3 Fresno State run to end the game.

Common trends in ASU's recent struggles have been offensive rebounding, turnovers, and free throw shooting. Yet, this afternoon not of those statistical categories were a factor as the Sun Devils surrendered just five offensive rebounds, turned the ball over ten times and were 16 of 18 from the charity stripe.

"Our defense in the second half was despicable," Sendek commented. "and number 3 (Olekaibe) really took us to task."

King paced ASU with 22 points and Lockett added 17. Both players tied for the team lead in rebounds with six apiece. Kyle Cain was the only other ASU player in double figure scoring with ten. Chris Colvin who missed the last two games led all players with seven assists but was held scoreless.

It certainly was a depleted ASU squad which took to the floor, with Ruslan Pateev serving a one-game suspension and his replacement in the starting lineup, Chance Creekmur, spraining his ankle playing just five minutes. Jordan Bachynski picked up four fouls in the first half which just added to ASU's front court woes.

"We're not going to make any excuses," Sendek declared, "but we didn't have a lot of depth. We only had nine guys on scholarship…we didn't have a whole lot of options."

The psyche of the Sun Devil squad, losers of four of the last five games, is fragile to say the least. However, Sendek's concern didn't necessarily lie with that aspect alone.

"It doesn't do any good to worry about how you are handing this in the locker room right now," Sendek stated. "We should have done something about it when the game was going on. We had plenty of opportunities to play better during the game."

Wednesday's contest marked the last non-conference game for ASU this season, as the Sun Devils begin Pac-12 play with a three consecutive road games starting with Arizona on New Year's Eve. Does this break in the action come at a good time for ASU?

"It's coming at a good time for me," Sendek replied. "I don't see the kind of progress that I expect and want to see. I apologize to the Sun Devil fans for what I watched in the second half today."

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