Illini Down Devils in Maui Invitational

ASU's Jeff Pendergraph called his team's season opener against Illinois "Baptism by Fire." Unfortunately, his statement rang true as the Maroon and Gold were scorched by torrid shooting and fell 77-54 in their first game of the EA Sports Maui Invitational tournament.

Starting three freshmen Arizona State (0-1) looked shell shocked in the first several minutes. Head Coach Herb Sendek was forced to call a timeout with just over two and half minutes gone, as Illinois (3-0) jumped to an 8-0 lead. That was the last time ASU would trail in single digits.

The Sun Devils appeared antsy on offense, missing their first nine shots. Meanwhile the Fighting Illini broke down ASU's zone defense with excellent ball movement and crisp outside shooting. Furthermore, they controlled the boards on both ends of the court. All that spelled more trouble for the Devils who trailed 20-0 at the 14:30 mark.

Antwi Atuahene broke the cold spell scoring ASU's first two points at the 14:05 mark. James Harden scored his first basket in his Sun Devil career with 6:31 left in the half, but ASU was trailing 32-15 at that point. Christian Polk and Jerren Shipp provided a little spark off the bench, and cut the margin to 38-24 at halftime.

Pendergraph and Eric Boateng had a hard time getting involved in the offense, and on defense. Illinois continued to have its way with ASU. At the 11:42 mark ASU was down 20 points, 57-37. The lead peaked at 26 points, 76-50 with 2:42 left in the contest, and as the minutes ticked away the maroon and gold were probably thinking how they can improve in order to beat Princeton on Tuesday.

Polk came off the bench and paced the Sun Devils with 13 points and led all players on the floor with three steals. Ty Abbott had nine points for ASU. ASU shot 35.3% from the field versus Illinois' 57.4%. They were also out rebounded 31-21. One bright spot was shoring up the free throw shooting, as ASU converted 14-16 attempts. Rodney Alexander and Brain Randle each had 17 for the Fighting Illini.

Up next for ASU at 2 pm MT on Tuesday is a match against Princeton.

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