Convincing Win, Not a Convincing Performance

Despite ASU's 81-60 rout of Jackson State, head coach Herb Sendek and his players said that there was lot left to be desired after Thursday's night victory.

Following a halftime deficit of 16 points, the Tigers scored 34 points in the second half, shot 42.9% in that period, and were outscored by just five points.

"I thought Jackson State did a good job attacking on offense," said 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 rebounding battle was won by the Sun Devils, but again by small margin, 32-29. Furthermore, the visitors doubled ASU's offensive rebounds collecting ten caroms.

"I would like to have seen us get back more than five of 22 misses," noted Sendek. "We have to be better in that area as well."

ASU led by no more than five points for the first 11 minutes of the contest.

"I think it's been the same pattern I've seen all year," commented Jeff Pendergraph on the team's performance. "Up and down a little bit, start off kind of slow. Seems that we're trying to get a feel for how the other team will play, when I think we need just to take it to them.

"Today was a good day for guys playing their role, but we still have room to get better."

The foul prone senior had zero infractions in the win, yet played aggressive and had four blocks. "Coach got on me to be more of a presence at the basket," said Pendergraph. "In the Anaheim tournament guards were getting to the basket quite easy and making all kind of layups.

"Coach told me to be more of presence, taking charges, blocking shots and today was a good day for both of those. Guys were just laying it up in my face so it was easy to swipe it."

And what about his zero fouls in the win?

"That's a gold star for me right there," quipped the senior. "What? The whole game without fouls? You're kidding me? That's two gold stars. Coach says the harder you play the less you foul and I think that shows it right there.

"It wasn't just me playing hard. We had good ball pressure today and that made it easier for me down in the post and I'm not getting stuck behind (an opponent) that much. It was a pretty good defensive game."

James Harden was efficient as usual scoring 22 points in 25 minutes and shooting 70% from the field. He could have finished with a higher total if he didn't get tagged with his fourth foul just four and half minutes into the second half. The sophomore eventually fouled out in the waning moments of the contest.

"I'm getting into a groove, being more aggressive trying to get my teammates more open shots," said Harden.

He attributed some of his fouls to aggression and some to just "silly fouls."

ASU however increased its lead from 13 to 22 points while Harden was on the bench with four fouls.

"I think that was a real silver lining tonight," commented 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."

Harden was 4-5 from beyond the arc and the guard takes pride in improving that aspect of his game from last year. "The first couple of games I had to make minor adjustments on my form," he explained. "Once I get an open look I'm confident that I will knock it down."

Rihards Kuksiks had a career-high 16 points, and made 5-9 three pointers. "He made big three's for us," stated Sendek. "At a couple of key junctures he knocked down some big ones for us."

On the other hand, the Tigers were 0-9 beyond the arc in the first stanza and some of those attempts even fell short of the rim. Overall, the visitors were 2-16 in that category. "We did better," said Harden on his team's perimeter defense, "but there are a few screws we have to stitch up, as far as not letting too many open threes which we did a pretty good job tonight."

Up next for the maroon and gold is a formidable Nebraska team, which they will host Sunday at Noon.

"They're really playing exceptionally well," said 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."

Pendergraph expects a game similar to one the Devils had against Baylor last week, which is coincidently, is their only loss of the year. The senior added that the Huskers have confidence after beating virtually the same ASU team 62-47 last year.

"They're coming down here to play," said Pendergraph. "They're not coming down here for a little vacation, take a loss and go back home. That's a long trip to come for a loss. We got to be ready to play and play like we're supposed to play and can play."

Judging by his comments, Harden has clearly not forgotten about the drubbing he and his teammates received last year. "They killed us last year in their house," he said. "We got a little chip on our shoulder against them. It's a home game and we need to get revenge to what they did to us last year."

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