Devils Tame Tigers

James Harden scored 22 as he led the Sun Devils to yet another home non-conference win on Thursday night over the Jackson State Tigers.

For Arizona State Thursday night's game with Jackson State was just another building block on what looks to be a promising season. The Sun Devils (6-1) defeated Jackson State (1-7) 81-60 at Wells Fargo Arena and the game unfolded as planned, but it wasn't always smooth sailing for the hosts.

"I thought Jackson did a good job attacking on offense," said head coach Herb Sendek. "They're not a prolific shooting team. They're quick off the dribble. I thought they kept us off balance most of the night. Once again, our basketball team has a tremendous amount of work to do."

The contest kicked off with a bang as sophomore forward Rihards Kuksiks drained one of his five three pointers only eighteen seconds into the game to give the Sun Devils an early lead. Kuksiks proved himself to be valuable throughout the rest of the game as well totaling sixteen points to go along with five rebounds and two assists.

About seven minutes into the game the Sun Devils' superstar sophomore guard James Harden drove the lane, split a couple defenders and threw down a dunk with authority that elicited thunderous cheers from the crowd. Harden's dunk helped to propel the Sun Devils to a 14-point run only minutes later that put the Sun Devils up seventeen and decided the game's fate.

The left handed scorer ended the game with twenty two points but could have had more if fouls did not limit him in the second half. Harden fouled out with four minutes left but the team played well in his absence and even extended the lead over Jackson State from 13 to 22 points.

"I think that was a real silver lining tonight," acknowledged Sendek. "We had to play without James during that stretch and we were able to increase the lead. That was a positive for us. Not that we want to be in that position where we have to have him on the bench with foul trouble like that. "Our guys know that we are better with James. That didn't go away."

Senior center Jeff Pendergraph stepped his game up once Harden got into foul trouble. In the second half Pendergraph scored 10 of his 19 points, recorded three of his four blocked shots and had three rebounds compared to two in the first half. The big man was also solid from the line making seven out of eight attempts, and was foul-free the entire contest.

Although this was not the Sun Devils' best game they did show some improvement rebounding and shot 45.5% (10-22) from beyond the three-point line. They also only turned the ball over eleven times compared to Jackson State's thirteen turnovers.

Next on the schedule for the Arizona State men's basketball team is a tough home game against Big-12 opponent Nebraska. Last year the Devils traveled to Lincoln to take on the Cornhuskers and came away with a bruised ego after being beat thoroughly 62-47. Nebraska is off to a hot start this year and has yet to lose (6-0).

"They're really playing exceptionally well," noted Sendek. "They're undefeated coming in here on Sunday. They play small ball a lot and that seems to be increasing in popularity across the world…most significantly they just play hard. They extend the floor, they pressure…we've been very impressed with them."

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