Braxton and Team Seek Consistency

A road sweep, followed by two losses at home, followed by a road split. Welcome to the roller coaster ride known as ASU's Pac-10 play. Point guard Jason Braxton told DevilsDigest that he yearns for smooth sailing for himself and his teammates, which would ultimately lead to the team's goals being met.

The peaks and valleys of the Sun Devils' conference play were never more evident than their recent road trip to Oregon. On Thursday, they played toe-to-toe with Oregon State in the first half, just to be blown out in the final twenty minutes 88-66. On Saturday they played Oregon in one of the toughest venues in the conference, and despite a very rugged performance, never trailed once in the game and led comfortably until the final buzzer to notch a 64-51 victory.

How does the Sun Devils' point guard explain all this? "That's just how basketball is," he said. "Sometimes you come out mentally prepared and sometimes you don't. It's all about consistency, and right now we're inconsistent. Coming home in front of our crowd, we want to start getting some victories."

Rob Evans' team was sky high following a rare sweep at the bay area schools. However, his squad wasn't able to capitalize on that momentum and proceeded to drop two games at home to the Southern California schools. Braxton admitted that those defeats took their toll. "We were down," he recalled. "We went from being just a half game from first place, to being back to the bottom of the Pac-10. It was very frustrating and hard to swallow being so high and then so low. We were down, but we knew we couldn't feel sorry for ourselves because we had to be ready for the next game."

The misery continued for one more game, at Oregon State, but the Oregon game halted what seemed to be a nasty tailspin. "It was nice to win again," commented Braxton. "We had a lot of guys contribute. Ike (Diogu) had only eight points most of the game, so you had a lot of guys step up and make plays. It was a great team effort, and we got a lot of confidence from that."

"If we didn't win the Oregon game," Braxton continued, "we would be pretty much in last place. It was a good win for us, and we're back in the thick of things. We have a chance to do something special this week."

Generally speaking, the senior has saved his best for last. Braxton leads the Pac-10 with a 2.63 assist-to-turnover ratio, and has done an admirable job conducting the league's number two scoring offense; Then again, Braxton refuses to be pleased with his accomplishments thus far. "I can play much better," he remarked. "I need to knock down the open shots better, and shot free throws better. I'm never gonna score a lot, but I want to do what it takes for the team to win. I felt like I let everyone down when I shot 1-3 from the line (against Oregon), when previously I was knocking down my free throws. I need to spend more time in the gym working on my free throws and my shot. I need to be able to knock down a shot at the end of the shot clock."

The point guard isn't a big fan of playing the zone defense as they did so effectively at Oregon, but obviously agrees that the team should play whatever scheme that will disrupt the opposition. "Defensively, we need to continue to pressure teams and keep them off-balance. Make them adjust to our style," he stated. "Offensively, we're doing a good job of being patient and we have to continue to do that. We have a lot of guys scoring and knocking down open shots. We're doing OK offensively, but we can do better. But the defense is the key."

This weekend the maroon and gold open a four-game home stand. First team on the docket are the Washington State cougars on Thursday, a team that won't be taken lightly by the Sun Devils. "Washington State is a great team," said Braxton. "We're focusing on one game at a time, and we're not taking them lightly at all. We've seen them beat a number of teams in the Pac-10. They can lure you into playing that slow style, getting the shot clock get low and playing their type of game. We have to make sure that we come out and get on them."

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