Ty Abbott created a turnover and threw the ball to a sure thing. James Harden went up for a thunderous dunk like he usually does.
He bricked it.
The ball ended up in the hands of Josh Shipp, brother of ASU's Jerren Shipp, who nailed a three pointer. Then at the end of the half, right before the buzzer sounded Darren Collison added insult to injury and sunk another three pointer. ASU went into halftime down 18-29.
"That seemed to be the game changer right there," Derek Glasser said after the game. "When Shipp came down to hit the three to put them up eight; I don't think we ever got it under eight after that." What marked an unfortunate swing of events ended up leading to a downpour of UCLA dominance in the second half.
ASU came out of the locker room slow and sloppy. UCLA came out crisp and sharp.
"They came off the way we should have come off. They came off with energy, like they wanted it more than us," James Harden said after the game.
The difference was apparent everywhere on the court. Four UCLA players ended the game in double digit scoring. Darren Collison was 5-6 from behind the arc and finished with 17.
"Darren got a couple early ones that got him going," Glasser said. "I think we challenged him better in the second half than we did in the first." Collison was 4-4 at halftime from NBA range. "They hit their shots once again tonight. They are a tough to beat already, but when they hit 50 percent from the three it is almost impossible," Glasser added.
"We really didn't try to make any dramatic changes," Sendek said about his halftime speech. "We emphasized the things that we had to do better. We circled what we thought were the keys. But going back to it I thought that we had some opportunities that we didn't cash in on," he said.
"So I thought that we played pretty well in the first half, all things considered at least we put ourselves in the position to be in the neighborhood. Unfortunately they opened it up there with the run at the end of the half. Then the start of the second half I don't think we played as well and the lead ballooned and we were never a threat from there," he added.
Harden shot 5-13 and finished the game with 11 points. He admitted that his missed dunk was a big turning point for the Sun Devils. "That was a key play. I should have finished the bucket, it resulted in a three. Then we came back down and missed another shot, they came back down and hit another three. It was a big swing in the game," Harden said.
Jeff Pendergraph couldn't get anything going again. It appeared that the scouting report on Pendergraph is simple: double team him whenever he touches the ball. He went 2-5 finishing with 5 points and 6 turnovers in 25 minutes. "He had two turnovers on trap situations and he had one other on an offensive elbow," coach Herb Sendek said after the game. "No, it wasn't one of his best games. It is very important to our team that he be at his typical high level for us to be better."
In the absence of Pendergraph, Eric Boateng stepped in and registered six points, one rebound, two fouls and two turnovers. Boateng is beginning to take a more active role in the offense as teams are doing a better job playing Pendergraph.
Harden only took three shots in the second half, something that the standout freshman is not used to. "I didn't get opportunities," he said. "We didn't run our offense in the second half, we were kind of stagnant. "
Stagnant is an accurate adjective for the ASU offense, which many times looked to Rihards Kuksiks to shoot low-percentage three-pointers at the end of shot clocks. "If you're open and you have a shot, take it," said Sendek after the game about Kuksiks.
Looking back Coach Sendek had some interesting thoughts about why his team couldn't produce. "They just do a good job of playing team defense," he said.
It was hard for Sendek to speak candidly about his team's difficulties. "We have a lot of problems on a lot of fronts," he said after the game. "I don't try to rank our problems."
ASU's next game is this Saturday at 4 p.m. against USC, another tough opponent. Playing the turnaround game proved to be too much too soon for Sendek's squad last home stretch. ASU beat Stanford in an exciting game, and then dropped their next one to Cal, in a performance that appeared to lack enthusiasm.
"It takes tremendous fortitude to begin to refill your tank immediately," Sendek said. "It is a very grueling turn around, especially for the home team."
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