ASU's stats show concerns, encouraging signs

In a season marred by disappointment, a team must find positives to build upon to put itself on a path for possible improvement. ASU head coach Herb Sendek certainly acknowledges his squad's shortcomings this year, yet feels that some of the team's accomplishments display the development his team has made.

As the Sun Devils (6-13; 2-5 Pac-12) near the halfway point of conference play, most would be surprised to know that Arizona State actually leads the conference in adjusted field goal percentage.

"We are now 4th in the league in field goal percentage at almost 48%," Sendek explained. "We lead the league in three point field goal percentage and when you combine those two statistics; called adjusted field goal percentage and give the proper weight to the three point shot, we actually lead the Pac-12."

Even though the Devils are first in what is one of the most significant statistics when it comes to evaluating a team's offense, their win-loss mark clearly suggests that this campaign has been a struggle. The team's low free throw percentage, high turnover rate, as well as their low deflection rate on defense are just some of the contributing factors.

Scoring 10 points, as well as registering seven rebounds and four blocks in Saturday's loss at Utah, sophomore center Jordan Bachynski was one of the lone positives in the 64-43 defeat. Nonetheless, his team-low 39 percent shooting from free throw in some ways manifests ASU's struggles in that department.

"Growing up I've never been a great free throw shooter," Bachynski said claiming a 75 percent rate during that time, "but I've never been worse than Shaq (O'Neal). I've been working hard with sports psychologists, with my family, and with everyone around me to get my mental game to where it needs to be. That's a huge reflection of my free throws.

"Basketball is 80% mental and 20% physical. It's really tough because we spend all our time training the physical and we don't know how to train the mental. That is what I've been trying to do, train my mental game."

The Sun Devils' high mark in adjusted field goal percentage, is probably even that more remarkable considering the team's turnover numbers.

"Our problems on offense continue to be turnovers," Sendek commented. "Right now we are dead last in the Pac-12 at over 16 a game. It's not just coming from the point guard spot, it's coming from all spots, in all categories, in every way. It's something that we all have to take ownership of and do a better job with."

Tracking the team's deflections on defense is a category that is very indicative to Sendek of his squad's play on defense, and much like the turnovers at the other end of the court, this category leaves much to be desired.

"I've been disappointed in our defensive play as of late," Sendek confessed. "Right now we're 8th in the conference in field goal percentage defense. I think we're giving up too many easy baskets. Our deflections are way down. We're only averaging 16.5 in our conference play.

"We had an all time low of nine (deflections) against Utah. Nine in a 40-minute game is almost unheard of. The probability of the ball bouncing off your forehead would be higher than a team getting nine deflections in a game. I think more than anything else right now as we look at the past weekend in our rearview mirror, and as we look at the first seven games, our defense has to be much better moving forward."

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Considering all of these deficiencies, one might pose the question, "Why?" towards the Sun Devil defense, wondering if they possess that required state of awareness that allows for instantaneous movements and adjustments during a fast paced basketball game.

"Based on our walkthroughs, our preparation and our film sessions, I would tell you, our guys are on it," Sendek said. "In terms of awareness during actual games, We have a long way to go. We have to be able to transfer our knowledge base in practice, into game conditions better than we are. We have some real slippage when it comes to just being aware."

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With Trent Lockett still sidelined until further notice with a sprained ankle, the team relied heavily on Junior Chris Colvin during this past weekend's games.

"I thought he did a much better job quarterbacking our team," Sendek said of the junior point guard, "having the pulse of the team in the palm of his hand. I think he cut down on turnovers, and I was encouraged by some of the things he did. He had 15 points at Colorado on some nice dribble drives."

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Despite their struggles the Sun Devils seem to have a very positive collective team attitude, and their morale and energy is higher than it has ever been this season as the team prepares for this weekend's games against Washington and Washington State.

"We are in a great place mentally," Bachynski said. "We are looking into how we can improve and how we can learn from what happened this past weekend and what everyone needs to do to step up. We are looking forward to this weekend, to show the changes that we've made, and we know we can make."

"Just like any business, if you hit a rough patch it's your choice if you want to walk around with a doomsday flag," Sendek remarked, "or you want to walk around like you're Eeyore, but that doesn't make anything better. So we're positive, we're upbeat, we're looking forward to this weekend and can't wait to get to practice and that is our attitude."


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