Sun Devils Grounded After First Pac-10 Win

When addressing the media for the first time since his inaugural conference victory, Head Coach Herb Sendek quipped that he's enjoying his winning streak. He added that his squad remains unflappable after that feat and certainly not exhibiting any behavior that would suggest that they're letting that win affect them.

"Someone just asked me ‘do they have more pep in their step?' and the answer is no," said Sendek. "Quite frankly, they've always maintained some pep in their step. They come everyday with an outstanding attitude, ready to work…their disposition, body language has never faltered. Even after Sunday's game it was business as usual and I really like this quality about the team."

The maroon and gold are mindful that a very tough match up against their archrival awaits them on Sunday, and nothing short of their best effort will help them have a chance for an upset. "We're gonna have to play a brilliant basketball game to be competitive" noted Sendek. "We're going up against one of the most talented teams in the country…a team that had their way with us in Tucson and held us to 46 points. It was good for us to get a win on Sunday and I was so happy for our players and fans. But we have to move beyond that very quickly-no different than after we lose a game."

Sendek feels that the Wildcats' strength doesn't lie with one individual, but the rather the collective talent and effort they bring to the table. "I would be insane to try and single out one guy," he remarked. "One of the things that make them so lethal is that they can score from all five positions. They're a very talented offensive team. The one thing that really was striking when we played them, was how big they are and how well the pass the ball. They have great court vision and are very difficult to defend."

One thing that will be far less of a challenge is attracting fans to Wells Fargo Arena this coming Sunday. Granted, a fairly large Arizona contingent is bound to make the trek to Tempe, but the maroon and gold crowd has grown significantly as of late, despite what has obviously been a struggling Pac-10 season. Sendek for one is not surprised by the crowd support. "You can feel a tremor underneath the earth building…there's no lava in the volcano necessarily, but you can feel the thing and build on that," he explained. "We have a lot of work to do. There's no one in their right mind that's saying ‘we're done.' We have a lot work to do, but that's OK. It's fun. We're engaged in a great project, we'll have our ups and downs…it's not gonna be a geometric progression to where we want to go, but it's gonna be exciting and it won't be for the faint of heart."

A 1-14 conference record would usually not garner many positive compliments from opposing coaches, but USC skipper Tin Floyd hinted that the Sun Devils may be considered the best 1-14 team in the country, to which Sendek replied. "There are not a lot of us. If we're the best 1-14 team in the country, I'm glad we're better than that other team that has that same record. I'll take it a compliment; we're not being greedy these days."

Due to shirt short tenure this far with ASU, it's hard for Sendek to compare this ASU-Arizona rivalry to his former ACC rivalries at North Carolina State with Duke and North Carolina. He does however see similarities. ‘Schools in close proximity where alumni work together," he said, "Are neighbors and take out the garbage at the same time, meet at the curve and talk about the game." Another similarity may be the fact that he learned early on about the importance of this game. "People wanted to make sure that I knew we play them twice a year, and it was really important to my well being that we win," he commented. "People pointed that out to me very quickly."

He may be just a sophomore, but forward Jeff Pendergraph knows the emotions this match up brings with it. "Everybody already knows how intense the rivalry is," he said. "We went there (in the first meeting of the season) and underestimated the crowd and how they would play, and we paid for it. They beat us kind of bad. It's gonna be an interesting game on Sunday second time around."

"We're not gonna play them just to play them," continued Pendergraph. "It's not like ‘they beat us so many times in a row, so let's just go out and let them get another win.' We're gonna try and make it as difficult for them as possible, if not get a win. We're not just gonna lay flat and let them runs us over."

The sophomore doesn't buy into the theory that Arizona is struggling in a major way this season. "They're a great team," he acknowledged. "I'm hearing a lot of people saying how much in a slump they are…and that's kind of funny. A team wins 17 games and you say that they're in a slump…I think that's kind of interesting. They beat some big name teams (this season)."

Pendergraph was also complimentary of the supporters in the stands, and more importantly when they're not in their seats rushing the floor after a victory. "I think the crowd will be a lot better than it was the year before," Pendergraph guessed. "This year will be different especially after Sunday because we won, so they'll be a lot of ASU fans." When asked if he can imagine the pandemonium that will ensue after a win against Arizona, he said that it would be even bigger than it was after last Sunday's win. "But I now it's gonna be fun though," he stated. "It would be like that (post USC) celebrations were, but the whole city would be like that – just rushing around everywhere. Mill (Avenue) would be a problem…a good problem…"

He added that he's seen a lot of strangers on campus congratulating him after the win against USC. Consequently, he believes that last weekend's win was more of a boost of confidence to that group, than it was for the team itself. "It was showing them that we can win and that it would be worthwhile for them to come and watch us play."

Even though he was considered on the best freshman in the Pac-10 last season, he only averaged 6.1 rebounds per outing in the 2005-06. Since then he has considerably improved his skills there and now is now up to 9.1 rpg. "I need to get 20 (rebounds in a game) before the season is over," he joked. "Scoring isn't that big of a deal…grabbing all the rebounds I can would be a whole lot better than scoring 30 points a game." He added that in his position, to grab more rebounds is usually desire than technique.

Many have labeled the Sun Devils as the Dangerous team in the league since they seemingly have nothing to play for, like most other Pac 10 members. Pendergraph views that theory in a different light. "I think we're a dangerous team to play if you underestimate us," he said. "If you think that you're just gonna come in and beat us by 20, you're gonna have a hard time doing that. You're gonna realize that we're not gonna go down without a fight."

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