Devils Earn Split, Knock Off Beavers

The Sun Devils picked up their second conference victory of the season Saturday night, knocking off the Beavers while showing the kind of mental toughness and resolve seldom seen so far this year. Despite losing junior standout Trent Lockett to injury with nearly ten minutes to play, Arizona State was still able to hold on for a 76-66 victory.

The past couple of weeks have been tumultuous for the Sun Devils (6-11, 2-3 Pac-12) .Close, frustrating defeats, player suspensions, and the dismissal of sophomore guard Keala King had taken its toll. Against the Beavers they faced another challenge, playing without their best player, Lockett, over the final ten minutes of play, while desperately trying to protect a lead in front of the home crowd. Led by sophomore guard Chanse Creekmur's game-high 24 points, tight defense and an opportunistic offense, the Sun Devils found a way to get it done.

"I'm really proud of our guys," said head coach Herb Sendek after the game. "I thought they really stepped up with a gut-check win. I love the way they're pulling together and I thought we played a pretty good overall game on both ends of the floor."

Creekmur paced the Sun Devil offense throughout most the night. His 24 points were a career high as he knocked down 6-7 three point attempts while also chipping in three rebounds.

"We basically came together and played as a team," Creekmur said. "We pulled together at the end and that is what teams do and we are finally starting to figure that out. Everybody is doing what it takes to win.

"We finally drew a line in the sand and we just have to keep on building off this."

As a team, the Sun Devils shot 62% in the second half as they managed to stretch their lead to as many as twelve after Lockett went down with what was described as a sprained ankle after the game and had to be taken to the locker room.

"I think we're getting more comfortable with what we're doing," said Sendek. "Guys are understanding what this team has to do to have a chance to be competitive. Right now I think we're at a place where we don't have any selfishness. Sometimes we may take an ill-advised shot or not have the kind of patience we need, but I think we're beyond a place where anybody says 'Well, the reason he did that is because he's looking for his.'

"Right now I feel really good about where our team is in terms of togetherness," he added. "I think we have a team right now that's very unselfish."

The Sun Devils started the game fast, attacking the Oregon State full-court press with deft passing as they registered 22 assists as a team on Saturday. The Arizona State big men played a major part in their first half success as center Ruslan Pateev helped set the tone and finished with 10 points and 5 rebounds. Forward Kyle Cain, who came off the bench, provided an energetic spark with 16 points and 8 rebounds. As a team, the Sun Devils out-rebounded the Beavers 37-30.

"They've been rallying together now for a couple weeks," commented Sendek on his team's performance. "They didn't do it just when Trent went down, I think this team for the last couple of weeks, even though we haven't always had the results go our way, has really been doing a great job of coming together. I love the way they talk to each other and help each other. We're in the process right now of really becoming a team, win, lose or draw.

"I just thought everyone stepped up in really admirable fashion when Trent went down with the ankle injury. There was still a lot of time left in that game and for a team that doesn't have very much depth at all right now to be put in that position and respond the way they did, is like a really, really good thing."

Lockett, who started the game at point guard for the second consecutive game, had been doing a steady job of running the offense and filling the stat sheet. Before his injury, Lockett had 8 points to go along with 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 4 steals despite being plagued with foul trouble. After the game, Sendek said that Lockett had a considerable amount of swelling in his ankle and would have to be re-assessed tomorrow to determine the severity of the injury.

His departure though created an opportunity for struggling point guard Chris Colvin, who along with being recently suspended, had seen his minutes and productivity decline considerably in recent games. Despite that though, Colvin played calmly and confidently down the stretch, keeping the Sun Devil offense on track while also adding six points and six assists, to go along with three rebounds.

"A number of guys really stepped up for us this afternoon," reflected Sendek. "Obviously Chase's shooting was sensational. Trent and Chris combined for thirteen assists. And I just thought Chris did an amazing job when Trent went down with the injury."

"It's no secret Chris has been struggling; his confidence has been on the rocks," continued Sendek. "But for him to gather himself and play the way he did the last quarter of the game is just a real tribute to him. I'm real happy for him.

"I really challenged him at halftime and have been talking to him about the mental part," he added. "I just thought he was amazing, the way he was able to go from where he's been - including the first half of the season - to clear his mind and perform the way he did the last quarter of the game, is not easy to do. To me that showed a lot and we're not able to hold off Oregon State if he didn't."

The Sun Devils will get set to go on the road next week and play against Colorado and Utah. The recent splits against the Los Angeles and Oregon schools are a welcomed sign, and one the team hopes to continue with against the tough conference slate ahead.

"We're a challenged team that has our feet on the ground and have a good sense of who we are," concluded Sendek. "We're just going to keep chipping away at the rock and try to get better every day. We're going to continue to take it one day at a time and try our best to stay in the present. As coaches, we're going to continue to teach and I know our players are going to continue to work hard and learn."


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