Sun Devils Maul Musketeers, Win by 22

Aside from being the first home game versus a ranked non-conference opponent in over 20 years, the contest against Xavier was significant for other reasons. It was a chance to validate the apparent improvement the Sun Devil basketball team has made since last year. Today's resounding 77-55 win over the 17th ranked Musketeers will go a long ways in proving the progress of Arizona State basketball.

"Obviously the key this afternoon was our defense," said Head Coach Herb Sendek who's squad limited the visitors to 30.6% shooting from the field. "Aside from the first couple of possessions, before we realized that the game has started, I thought our defensive effort was as good as it has been. We had a really good week of practice, and I feel that it really paid dividends for us this afternoon."

As Sendek alluded to, the opening minutes of the contest where Arizona State (7-2) started four freshmen for the first time in school history, certainly didn't bode well for the Sun Devils, and sent most of the 7,951 in attendance at Wells Fargo Arena into shock. An alley-hoop dunk and two three-point baskets, forced Herb Sendek to take a time out at the 18:34 mark with Xavier (8-2) already leading 8-0.

Just when it looked that the Sun Devils will be come another rout victim of the Musketeers this season, they showed their resiliency. Thanks to three pointers by McMillan and Abbott, ASU was able to cut down the lead to 11-10 with 15:45 left in the first half.

The Sun Devil momentum didn't stop there, and Eric Boateng's put-back gave the hosts a 21-18 edge at the 11:24 mark. ASU's defense made sure that the visitors from Cincinnati would never lead again. They held the Musketeers scoreless for over four minutes, which negated some Sun Devil offensive struggles to close the half. The hosts had a 33-28 halftime margin and upset talk was already in the air.

The Sun Devils saved their best for the last twenty minutes, where they played perhaps the best half of basketball in the Sendek era.

How impressive was it? The maroon and gold shot at a 57.1% clip, while limiting the visitors to 21.9% from the field.

At the 15:39 mark of the second half Xavier Head Coach Sean Miller can't wait for a dead ball, and wastes one of his time outs after seeing Jerren Shipp sink in two shots beyond the arc to give the Devils a 46-33 lead, capping a 13-5 run by ASU.

So strong was the Sun Devil domination, that the closest Xavier was able to make the rest of the way, was cutting it down to a 50-40 game with 11:36 left in the game. The hosts found their rhythm again offensively, and James Harden beats the shot clock with a long range basket to give the Devils a 61-44 lead at the 6:35 mark of the second stanza.

With 2:24 left in the game, the margin is an even 20 points, 72-52 as ASU marched to its first home victory over a ranked out of conference opponent since Dec. 20, 1980, when the Sun Devils defeated then No. 7 Ohio State.

Ty Abbott, playing under the weather, had a game-high 19 points, connecting on 5-8 three point shots. Shipp, who came off the bench and didn't start due to a knee injury (was replaced by Rihards Kuksiks in the starting five), had 17 points. James Harden was the only other ASU player in double digit scoring with 16. Jeff Pendergraph pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds. B.J. Raymond paced the visitors with 12 points.

ASU was able to overcome 16 turnovers and surrendering the same number of offensive rebounds to Xavier. They did however hold a 34-30 edge on the boards, and were 10-19 from three-point country.

Up next for the Sun Devils is another non-conference game, as they entertain Montana State on Tuesday night at 7 pm.

"I know they're playing very well, they're an excellent three-point shooting team," said Sendek about his next opponent. "I know they've played well. They have played a real good schedule. So Tuesday will be another opportunity for you guys to be here…get the rest of your Christmas shopping done before Tuesday night."

"The more the merrier. We're looking for a great turnout, maybe even a better turnout, on Tuesday night. What better thing is there to do Tuesday night, than to come see the Sun Devils?"

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