Devils Struggle in Win Over Aggies

20 turnovers and 55.6% from the free throw line. The 2006 young and undermanned Arizona State squad is likely to put up numbers that won't be easy on the eyes. Yet, despite its shortcomings on Thursday night, the Sun Devils played better when it mattered and ultimately were able to come away with 71-66 win over North Carolina A&T in the Sleep America Arizona State Classic tournament.

If there was a stat for the Sun Devils (6-4) to hang their hat on, was wining the rebound battle 50-32. Nonetheless, their skipper wasn't sure that this feat was the one that allowed them to get over the hump en route to victory. "We didn't play particularly well tonight," said Coach Herb Sendek. "We found a way to do just enough to win the game. I thought our guys did a very good job defending the three-point line. We took a disproportionate number of threes (converting 10-35 on the night), but that's what they were giving us. Had we've been able to knock down a few of those down, we might have a little more breathing room."

Indeed, ASU's shooting matched the temperature outside Wells Fargo Arena. In the first half, the maroon and gold had a rough night from long range (5-22 behind the arc) and shorter range (1-7 from the line, all by Antwi Atuahene). The 11 turnovers, much in part to an effective press defense by the Aggies (3-7) didn't make things easier for the home team. Atuahene and Serge Angounou were able to give their team a 17-13 lead with 7:53 left in the half. The visitors scored 23 points the rest of that time period and enjoyed a 35-32 lead at the half.

With top scorers Christian Polk and Jeff Pendergraph struggling with their shot, it was apparent that the scoring for ASU would have to come from a less likely source in order for them to come away victorious. Enter backup point guard Derek Glasser. The true freshman scored 13 points, part of his career-high 16, in the second half and led the charge back from deficit.

"Derek Glasser I thought was really big for us making some key three-point shots, and handling the ball against A&T's pressure," remarked Sendek. "I wasn't surprised – he has the ability to shoot. There's always that transition period of doing it in practice and doing it actually in a basketball game. It was good to see Derek step up like he did. He played with a lot of confidence in the second half."

"Coach told me before the game that he wants me to step up and take more shots," said Glasser who was 5-9 from three-point range. "They really didn't guar the corners and in our offense that's where I end up a lot. I was open and just felt it tonight."

A three-point basket by Polk followed shortly after by a Pendergraph dunk, gave ASU the lead for good 43-41 at the 15:02 mark, but it was far from smooth sailing from there. Pendergraph registered his fourth foul four minutes later and was forced to sit on the bench for several minutes. Glasser's hot shooting, including a rare four-point play, put the Devils ahead for a short time in double digit lead, 55-45, with 9:06 left in the game. Polk fouled out, and North Carolina A&T brought down their deficit to 62-60 at the 4:40 mark. But that's as close as the visitors would come to an upset.

Atuahene led all players on the floor with 18 points, and tied the team lead (along with Pendergraph) collecting 11 boards. "He played hard," commented Sendek on Atuahene. "He guarded their best player on the on the other end and did a terrific job. On a night that he struggled with his shooting (6-16 from the free throw line) he found other ways to add great value to our team." The Sun Devil shot 41.1% from the field but limited the Aggies to 34.5%.

There's no rest for the weary, as ASU will play an early 2 p.m. game on Friday against Davidson in the Sleep America Arizona State Classic tournament final. Davidson advanced to the final after beating Ohio 83-74. "It's a great challenge for our team - three games in four days and a 2 o'clock tip," said Sendek. "We'll try to drink a lot of fluids and get a good night sleep and start tomorrow morning with our preparation."

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