Devils Drop Season Opener

Excitement and patience. These two contrasting feelings would describe the mood of the Sun Devil nation following ASU's 75-71 loss to NAU. The 10,267 in attendance rushed in the Herb Sendek era in a ruckus fashion, creating a true home court advantage. Yet this defeat reminded those same fans that they need to hang tight with a young team still going through the infamous learning curve.

"Our guys wanted to do well so badly. If I could only quantify how much they wanted to win and do well tonight," commented Arizona State Head Coach Herb Sendek. "You would be amazed. They work so hard everyday and have great attitudes and tonight not only for themselves but for the Sun Devil nation they wanted to come out and get this win."

Indeed, the maroon and gold started the game with a very energetic and successful pace. Christian Polk had ten points in roughly the first five minutes, as ASU opened a14-5 lead. From this point on, the promise displayed by the maroon and gold gave way to reality. "We ran into a wall, NAU is a good team and we just ran into a wall and tried to get over it but it was too late," said Jerren Shipp, who paced ASU with 23 points – a school record for a true freshman in their first ever ASU game. "We have a lot of work to do, we have to come back tomorrow and get ready for next game."

Tyrone Bazy helped the visitors from Flagstaff storm back and go on a 9-0 run to tie the score at 14-14 at the 12:27 mark of the first half. Polk and Shipp help give the home team a 23-17 edge midway through the first half, just to see their porous defense, which gave up as many lay-ups as it did three-point shots, and along with several turnovers (18 in all) let the Lumberjacks reclaim the lead for good 26-25 with just under six minutes left in the half. NAU tacked on some more points later in the period and went down to the locker room with a 39-33 edge.

The Sun Devils came out in the second half scoring a three point basket by Sylvester Seay, who got the starting nod on Monday night. This was followed by four turnovers and no points in nearly four minutes, as NAU increased their lead to 43-36, and later to their game-high nine points, 52-43, with 11:39 left in the contest.

Shipp scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half, and his efforts help tie the game at 56 apiece at the 5:41 mark. The Jacks made 13-15 free throws the last twenty minutes and along with the Devils' 36.1% shooting were able to slightly increase their lead and come away victorious in Tempe.

"I thought the crowd tonight was really a good first step for out basketball program," said Sendek. "I was particularly grateful for the way our students stood the entire game; I thought it was the beginning of what could be a great atmosphere at Wells Fargo (Arena)… NAU played a great game and for us the key was our defense. It was much too porous for us to win a game. We have to do a better at that end of the floor. Offensively, I love the three-point shot, and its blasphemy for me to say this we were too quick on too many possessions. If you combine those possessions with the 18 turnovers we had, it was just a disproportionate number of non-productive offensive possessions. But we'll get right to film, and we'll obviously have a quick turnaround for Wednesday night."

Shipp had 23 points and Polk had 22 for the Sun Devils. Antwi Atuahene was the only other Sun Devil in double figures with 11, as well as the team's high man in assists with four. Shipp led ASU in rebounds with seven. Bazy had 21 points for NAU.

"They (NAU) are coming off a 20-win campaign with four starters back and a postseason appearance," commented Sendek. "We knew we had a tough opener tonight but that's ok, good competition will help us get better. We wanted like crazy to win this game, and I can't tell you how much the guys wanted it. We just got to stick together and work hard. We're going to ask the Sun Devil nation to be with us through thick and thin and get a good crowd for the next game. We're going to get it done. It's not going to happen right away, but experiences like this will only help strengthen and increase our determination."

No one on the team or in the stands will try to sugarcoat this loss. It certainly was not ASU's basketball finest hour, and youth won't be constantly brought up as an excuse, especially with the way true freshmen Polk and Shipp are playing thus far. Nonetheless, there is hope with the two aforementioned players that maybe the Sun Devils won't completely fulfill the bleak predictions many have in stored for them. Stumbling out of the blocks is detrimental in a sprint, but mostly just a footnote in a marathon that is a basketball season.

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