Devils Cruise in Season Opening Game

A season opener is never free of flaws, and on Friday night the Sun Devils certainly displayed some deficiencies such as rebounding and ineffective perimeter defense in the second half. Nonetheless, forcing 20 turnovers and unselfishness on offense were also served, and greatly aided ASU in beating Mississippi Valley State 80-64 in front of a crowd of 8,590 at Wells Fargo Arena.

"Right now our minds are really focused on rebounding, on the fact that we were beat to too many loose balls," said Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek. "I thought Mississippi did a great job of scrapping. In the second half we actually had more turnovers than we did deflections. That is disturbing from our point of view."

Mississippi Valley State (0-1) actually opened the game corralling four offensive rebounds on their first possession. Luckily for Arizona State (1-0) that was the only sign of possible dominance from the visitors. The Sun Devils led the entire game, and following two free throws by James Harden, opened a 22-12 lead with 8:52 left in the half.

Harden was in mid-season form, as the sophomore All-American finished the game with a double-double (24 points, 10 assists) along with three of his team's eight steals. His aggressiveness was evident as he visited the charity stripe 16 times, converting 12 free throws.

"I thought James did a really good job of drawing two defenders a number of times," commented Sendek. "Did a real job when they put two (defenders) on him, when we ball screened and he found guys on the backside a number of times to account for ten of those assists."

Rihards Kuksiks, who had 12 points, was 3-4 from three-point range in the first half and along with Ty Abbott's 9 points (18 total) helped the hosts gain a 39-23 halftime advantage.

The opening minutes of the second half gave ASU some anxious moments, as a trio of three-pointers by the Delta Devils trimmed down the Devils' lead to 39-32.

"They hit us between the eyes to start the second half with three straight three pointers," recalled Sendek. "Went on a nine-zero run and then also finished the game on an up tick against us. Two key spurts that we didn't cover very well. "

"Obviously we yielded 41 points in the second half and gave up 50% field goal percentage, numbers that certainly aren't favorable to us."

Back-to-back fast break baskets from Abbott and Derek Glasser gave the maroon and gold a 54-41 lead with 12:21 left in the game, and a double digit edge was maintained the rest of the way. Pendergraph had eight points in the second half after scoring just two in the first half and riding the pine due to foul trouble. Jerren Shipp had two long range baskets in the final stanza.

Shannon Behling paced Mississippi Valley State with 18 points, as the Delta Devils enjoyed a 31-25 advantage on the glass, as well as a 14-4 edge on the offensive end.

Up next for the Sun Devils is a road game against a formidable opponent in San Diego State. Needless to say that the maroon and gold will have to shore up their shortcomings in a hurry in order to avoid defeat.

"Suffice it to say we have a great deal of work to do," stated Sendek, "and we'll continue to roll up our sleeves and try to get better."

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