Cardinal Defense Stifles Devils in Opener

It was well-known that the undermanned and young Sun Devils will struggle in Pac-10 play. Unfortunately, their league opener stayed true to that prediction. Tonight in Tempe, ASU dropped a 71-60 decision to Stanford, mostly due their offensive struggles.

"They played an excellent match-up zone," said Head Coach Herb Sendek. "They matched-up in areas, where it makes it important to put the ball on the floor and penetrate." Case in point, when Stanford (8-2, 1-0) played man-to-man, Arizona State (6-6, 0-1) wasn't really affected. Christian Polk helped his team jump to a 12-7 lead in the first five minutes of the half. When the Cardinal switched up to the aforementioned defensive scheme, the maroon and gold just managed 12 points in the next 15 minutes.

An unexpected contribution by Stanford's Landry Fields, who connected on a trio of three-point shots and had all of his 11 points in the first half, helped Stanford close the gap. Lawrence Hill's long-range basket gave the visitors a 24-21 edge – a lead that they would never relinquish. The home team was outscored 12-2 in the last 4:42 minutes of the half, and was trailing 33-24 at the break.

The Cardinal's Anthony Goods, in part thanks to some questionable officiating, was sent to the charity stripe 11 times, and converted nine of his 12 second half points from that spot. The Sun Devils were able to cut the margin to six, 43-37, after Jeff Pendergraph had a three-point play at the 13:58 mark of the second half. The Cardinal broke away with a 9-0 run, to up their edge to 52-37 with 8:22 left in the contest. In fact, their lead was in double digits for the last 12:32 minutes in the game.

Even though ASU scored at a 50% clip in the last twenty minutes, their nine turnovers and inability to effectively administer the press defense, allowed Stanford to win their conference opener and capture the 11th out of the last 12 games played in Tempe.

Pendergraph paced all players on the floor with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Christian Polk scored 11, and was the only other Arizona State player in double figures. Derek Glasser, who started for the injured Jerren Shipp had a team-high five assists. The maroon and gold attempted just 17 free throws, which is a little less than half the attempts the Cardinal had at 35. ASU struggled from beyond the arc, making just 3 of 16 attempts. Goods and Taj Finger led the visitors in scoring with 14 points apiece.

"I'm not gonna be disappointed," said Sendek. "I'm gonna come with a smile everyday to work. I'm not gonna kick cans. I don't have a dog (due to allergies according to him), so I won't kick it. We're gonna keep on working. We're gonna be a next-game team."

And next up for Sendek's squad is Cal, who dropped their first Pac-10 game, 94-85, on the road to Arizona. The Golden Bears are trying to cope with some key injuries, which may make them vulnerable. Then again, suffice to say that ASU cannot have a repeat performance of tonight; if they wish to notch their first conference win sooner rather than later.

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