Mental Preparation is Key For Arizona Game

The Arizona Wildcats present challenging physical match ups for the ASU Sun Devils. However, reeling over a disappointing loss to Western Michigan, Coach Evans agrees that the mental preparation for Saturday's game is perhaps even more important than the physical aspect.

"I think a lot of the preparation (for the Arizona game) is mental," exclaimed the ASU coach. "I think these guys are trying to do what we ask of them, but it has to be more repetitive. As they become more experienced, they will eliminate some of the mistakes that we're making and causing the problems that we're having."

In reviewing the loss to Western Michigan, Evans said that missed free throws weren't the only factor that plagued his team. "We had some defensive breakdowns that hurt us," he said. "We were too flat on defense, and we weren't aggressive enough helping on screens. We've gone over this a lot, but when you talk about an inexperienced basketball team it becomes difficult (to implement). They just have to be consistent on defense."

Nevertheless, the Sun Devil skipper did see some encouraging signs during the contest, and following it. "I really like this team," stated Evans. "I thought the guys really battled hard. I had teams in the past that when they got down in crucial situations like that, they weren't able to come back. We came back, and if we make free throws at the end we do win the game."

"I like their competitive spirit," continued Evans. "They were really concerned losing the game (against Western Michigan). Every game we lost it hurt (them) deep. That's not always the case with kids; they're able to get over losses faster than the coaches. These kids it really bothers them, and that means that they will get better. They come everyday to practice to become better. Getting more consistent is what we're looking for."

The most anticipated match up in this game, is obviously between Channing Frye and Ike Diogu. Evans commented on this big man duel. "That's a great match up," he said. "And the fans will enjoy watching it. Those guys are tremendous offensive players. Channing blocks a lot of shots, which makes him a good defensive player. But the game will be won with the other guys too."

Evans claimed that this season he sees a more improved Wildcats team over last year. "They are more of a transition team since I've been here," he said. "They really love to push the basketball, and doing more full court defense. They can put it on the floor, and attack you off the dribble. That makes it difficult to guard. It's tough to zone them because they can knock down shots."

Many see Arizona's lack of depth as their glaring weakness. However, Evans is quick to dismiss that belief. "They're not as deep as last year," Evans stated, "but more athletic. Most people play 7-8 guys anyway, and they have 7-8 guys they play. They're in pretty good condition. Radenovic gives them more stability and size, and that's the only place they were lacking. They have a lot of perimeter people. Those guys are athletic and can play a lot of minutes."

It was nothing but a normal schedule rotation that has caused ASU to play their archrival in the first conference game of this season. Coach Evans is pragmatic on whether this benefits or hurts his team. "I don't have any control over the schedule," exclaimed Evans. "I play whoever is our next opponent. Everybody is this league is good. Everybody talks about the league being down - we have a young league. As the year goes on everyone will get better, and the league will get better. We have to play everybody twice, so it doesn't matter when we play them."

Regardless of when or where the Devils play the Cats, one can be certain that Evans' team will be extremely motivated for this contest. "I think are guys are excited to play this game," stated the ASU skipper. "We played good basketball in stretches, but we just haven't been consistent. We have eight guys that are freshmen and sophomores. Our best player, Ike Diogu, is a sophomore so he's still learning. As we get better we will win games that we should win."

Evans did acknowledge that the standing room only crowd on Saturday could add a pressure element on his young team. Thus, emotions will have to be held in check. "We don't see that all the time," he said, "and Arizona does. So our guys will be pretty hyped up early in the ball game, and I have to be the stabilizing force. They will make some mistakes, and I have to make sure to let them play through those mistakes and play loose. Playing in front of a large crowd is something that our guys will hopefully be more accustomed to."

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