Devils Lose Heartbreaker to Cougars

The video of Coach Herb Sendek urging the crowd to cheer following his ejection on Thursday was played over and over tonight. Nonetheless, the 9,240 in attendance didn't need that clip to get pumped up for their Sun Devils. ASU limited Washington State to 12 points in the second half as they mounted a furious comeback. Unfortunately, a missed buzzer beater had the Cougars escape with a 48-47 win.

"It's very special that even though our team isn't finishing with wins, our crowds keep on getting better," said Sendek. "I don't know if anywhere else in America that can take place. Our student section in particular…was the best of the year. It really was downright terrific. Under the totality of the circumstances, with all that's going on – that's a great testament to our university and our students. That really touched me."

Arizona State (6-16, 0-11) found some rhythm on offense to start the game, but three-point baskets by Derrick Low and Daven Harmeling prevented the 18th ranked Washington State (19-4, 8-3 Pac-10) from seriously falling behind. The Sun Devils enjoyed their last lead of the game, 10-8 at the 15:56 mark of the first half. A 20-8 run by the visitors from Pullman gave them a double digit edge, 28-18 with 6:55 remaining in the first half. The maroon and gold did prevent their deficit from significantly increasing as they ended the first twenty minutes down 36-24.

In the beginning of the second half, it seemed as if Washington State was about to turn this contest into a laugher. Just 29 seconds into this period they led 40-27 and seemed poised to deliver a crushing knockout to a team still seeking their first conference victory. From that point on ASU played their best defensive game of the season. They yielded just eight points the rest of the way, and had the Cougars shooting an abysmal 20% from the field 4-20). Alas, the Devils weren't fairing much better at 30% (8-26) and took a while to creep back into the game.

Jeff Pendergraph capped off a 13-0 run and tied the game at 44-44 with 2:32 left in the contest. Washington State scored four unanswered points, while ASU struggled to convert their offensive possessions, and their next (and last) basket was a three-pointer by Christian Polk that came with 1.9 seconds left. After the Cougars turned over the ball when trying to inbound, it seemed as if the Sun Devils may have been destined to finally notch that elusive first league triumph. Polk got a clean look at a three-point try that beat the buzzer, but rimmed out and sent the maroon and gold off the court with a school record 12th straight loss.

"Very much like Thursday night our guys did a terrific job on defense, especially in the second half," commented Sendek. "and because of that we had a chance to win. Everyone tends to focus on the last play of the game, but as you know we could go to the tape right now and play the would of, could of game for a lot of possessions. Obviously a painful loss. No use pretending that it doesn't hurt because it does. But still a lot of silver lining as we move forward."

Pendergraph remarked that both games against the Washington schools were very similar to each other as his team's second half performance was considerably better than the first half. "…Our second halves – we will have tremendous effort and we have to figure out how to string a whole game like that," he noted. "Hopefully it won't come down to last second shots and we'll be competing and beating the best teams in the country." He added that he wasn't surprised that a good portion of his points came from outside the paint. "We're expecting the double-teams, so that (taking jump shots) was part of the game plan."

The forward was also very complimentary of the crowd at Wells Fargo – the second largest of the season. "It meant a lot. Wells Fargo has been kind of desolate lately," he said with a smile. "It was awesome. We get a stop, we score…the crowd goes wild. They bring it down on offense and the crowd is in their ear yelling…it was a great atmosphere."

Pendergraph had a game-high in both points (19) and rebounds (9). Polk was the only other Sun Devil in double digits with 12. Washington State scored at a 63.2% clip in the first half and had ten assists during that period. ASU controlled the boards with a 35-28 edge, including 12 on offense. They missed just three free-throws (5-8), but those mishaps proved costly as they all occurred in the second half during the team's comeback. Harmeling paced the visitors with 16 points.

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