Fatigued Sun Devils fall to Ducks at Home

On a night where he was asked to play 39-plus minutes in a foreign position, point guard in training Trent Lockett did all but win the game playing 40 minutes in ASU's 67-58 loss to the Oregon Ducks on Thursday night.

Early on it seemed as if a 90-89 final score wasn't too far out of question as the Sun Devils (5-11, 1-2 Pac-12) and Ducks (12-5, 3-2) banged home shot after shot for the first five minutes of the game. Ball movement was good for ASU, but defensively the backside rotations continued to be a problem as Ruslan Pateev and Jordan Bachynski closed out late on several shooters.

Trent Lockett cited lack of focus as one of the team's shortcomings versus Oregon.

"We knew exactly what to do and we know exactly how they were going to play us," Lockett remarked. "Silly turnovers down the stretch on post flashes…coach did a great job preparing us we just have to execute.

"I think down the stretch fatigue kind of got to us. We're in great shape so no excuse for that."

Lockett's head coach concurred with the weariness factor.

"I thought there were a couple keys that went against us this evening," coach Herb Sendek said. "First, our defense at the beginning of the game put us in the hole, and obviously they were shooting the ball very well. Then I thought there were key spots and possessions in the second half, on both ends of the floor, where we let fatigue get the best of us."

Even with the torrid pace, Lockett had a solid game, finishing with 23 points, five assists, and four rebounds, and seemed as though he was up to the task of running the point for as long as Herb Sendek asked him to. Still, it was evident how taxing the minutes became towards the end of the game, for both Lockett and his teammates.

Of Lockett's performance, Sendek put it perfectly, stating, "Taking away some positives, I thought once again Trent was terrific. We're asking him to everything: run the team, score, defend, and never come out of the game." Personally, I think "everything" is an understatement.

"Digging ourselves a hole in the first ten minutes in hindsight now was a real difference," said Sendek of the early defensive struggles. "Our guys though, to their credit, battled back and were only down two at the half, but that took a tremendous energy surge to do that."

Consistent energy seemed to be a problem for ASU all game as good spurts were followed by intense lulls, while Oregon just continued to plug away.

Lockett was pulled after picking up his third foul in the first half, but in less than a minute Chris Colvin turned the ball over and Sendek sent Lockett right back into the game. Sendek said he needed to see more out of Colvin before giving him more minutes. Adding that he just couldn't take Lockett out of the game.

Carrick Felix added two threes early, but only five other points outside of that for the rest of the game, as he finished as the team's second leading scorer with eleven. Not exactly the scoring output ASU needed alongside Lockett to secure the victory.

Jonathan Gilling made a strong case to back-up Lockett at the point with five assists on the night, but Sendek quickly dismissed that idea in post-game, stating that Gilling, "is not a point guard." Then again, technically Lockett isn't either. Regardless, it's evident when watching him that Gilling has much more experience than a normal freshman from playing overseas.

Pateev put together one of the strongest performances I've seen in his three years at ASU with nine points, six rebounds, and three assists. Normally the seven-foot Russian is more comical that impressive when he's out on the floor, but Pateev showed a couple good post moves, knocked down a fifteen-foot jump shot, and continued his improved free throw shooting going three for four from the line.

"I thought Ruslan made a couple really nice plays and had a good line tonight with nine points, six rebounds, three for four from the line," Sendek said of his center. "He's over 86 percent now on the season from the line, maybe higher than that. Three assists, no turnovers, so that was a real positive for us."

I'm encouraged with Ruslan's improvement. I think over the course of the last handful of games, he has really showed marked improvement, but we're also trying to get the ball inside to some of our guards."

Along with the nights of Pateev and Lockett, ASU put together another great shooting night, and at this point, Sendek and his team will take all the positives it can get.

"Once again our field goal percentage and adjusted field goal percentage when you weigh the three is extremely positive," Sendek said of his team. "Only to be mitigated by the fact that we continue to turn the basketball over. Our sixteen turnovers are amplified by the fact that we're not forcing a lot. So the differential is the margin of difference for us and that's no different than it has been for the majority of the season."

"Ball pressure and energy," Lockett cited as aspects that the Sun Devils need to have to force more turnovers.

The defense struggled all night when Oregon reversed the ball, and overall the Duck's ball movement showcased how slow-footed several Sun Devil defenders are. Along with the poor awareness, the lack of turnovers forced by ASU continued to hurt the team, as it forced only eight compared to the sixteen it gave up.

"I don't think we're terrifically active right now. We only had ten deflections at the half, six in the second half, a grand total of sixteen. We need double that. We need 32 deflections. If we get 32 deflections we're going to be in a much better position."

The one big number in Lockett's final box score that stands out the most, and probably had the biggest affect on the outcome of the game was the big ol' seven he had in the turnover column. Obviously Lockett is not a traditional point guard, so mistakes are expected, but it seemed as if a couple of minutes sitting on the bench to catch his breath would've done the junior guard some good.

Not only was his shot not falling like it was early in the game, but his pace was visibly slower as he walked the ball up the floor time after time in the waning minutes.

Overall it was a heroic night for Lockett, and nobody can take that away from him, but the lack of depth on this team is becoming a problem as three players accrued 36-plus minutes, and only six played a number significant minutes at all.

Exhaustion seemed to be the key tonight, despite Lockett quickly dismissing his own fatigue as a factor after the game. There doesn't appear to be help on the horizon either.

"Tonight it was turnovers, but I don't think our defense was nearly good enough," Sendek said of his team. "I honestly don't have a good explanation for our defense in the first ten minutes."

We're not going to be able to call anybody up from the D-League, so this is who we have right now and we're going to have to do a good job with our conditioning, our recovery, and our mental toughness."

Next up for ASU is another Pac-12 home contest, as they host Oregon State Saturday night at 6 p.m. The Sun Devils haven't won at Wells Fargo Arena since December 10th (against North Dakota State) and this year have been victorious only twice on their home floor.

"Got to take care of games at home," Lockett said. "That's the biggest thing. We got a good road win at USC…we got a good group of guys and we will come back tomorrow ready and prepared for Oregon State."

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