Beavers Have the Devils' Attention

It took just two games to achieve what Oregon State failed to accomplish all of last season. A Pac-10 win. The Beavers' 62-58 OT victory over USC last Sunday perhaps astonished several Pac-10 followers, but to Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek; this feat didn't come as a surprise. Even though they were winless in league play in 2008, the writing was on the wall last year according to Sendek.

"There's no question that they are a year older and a better team right now," Sendek said of his team's opponent tonight. "But I can recall playing them in the last regular season game in Corvallis last year, and we knew we had to play well to win. We were very much on edge for that game.

"You could see the potential they had."

Nonetheless, Oregon State's win over USC has naturally grabbed the full attention of the Sun Devils. Then again, Sendek stated that as it is his squad isn't one that can take any Pac-10 opponent lightly.

"We don't have a lot of wiggle room on any night," Sendek admitted. "We got to play very well. It's not like we're some overpowering juggernaut that even if we slip slide through it, we're OK. We got to be on our toes and we got to play at our best to be competitive on any night.

"Our guys are pretty astute. They understand what Oregon State is capable of doing and how good they are. I don't think there's any confusion there."

Guard James Harden agreed with that notion and even drew a comparison between ASU and Oregon State, in terms of exceeding expectations.

"Last year we were supposed to finish last in the Pac-10," Harden said, "and obviously we finished in the middle. Oregon State finished in last place last year but this year they're a lot better. We have to take every game seriously and we have to be ready from the get-go because they're gonna come out strong."

Oregon State, much like Arizona State, is also known for its zone defense. However, the Beavers employ a 1-3-1 scheme which is a rarity in college basketball, but according to Sendek has gained some momentum in recent years thanks to coaches such as John Beilein at West Virginia.

"It's a very good defense," Sendek noted. "In fact we even messed around with it a little bit last year. We just never really played it very well. I don't like to go against it if it's played well (smile)."

Reserve Calvin Haynes is the Beavers leading scorer with 17.8 ppg. Just like the overall performance of Oregon State, Haynes' exploits this year aren't surprising to Sendek based on what he witnessed up close and personal last season.

"He can get a shot anytime he wants," Sendek described. "He makes difficult shots. He's strong, powerful and quick. He shoots the ball with range. But once again, he was good last year. It's not like he went into a phone booth and came out a different guy. I saw him do the same kind of things last season. He's really good."

Even though Cal was exceptionally torrid on offense, shooting 58% from the field as they beat ASU 81-71, Sendek wasn't pleased with his team's defensive effort last Sunday.

"That's not to take anything away from the challenge they presented," Sendek said about Cal's offense. "They were not an easy team to guard.

"It starts on offense. We put ourselves in a disadvantage with the way we played on offense at times. Our transition defense wasn't very good. Our half court defense wasn't very good either."

Harden described the mood on the plane ride back home following the loss as somber. "People were thinking what we want out of the season," Harden said. "Do we want to make this season special? We just talked amongst ourselves how we should come out and play our best against the Pac-10 and play with focus and great energy throughout each game and not let a game like this slip away from us like it did.

"It's our second season. It's time to play. People wanna make the tournament so when you enter conference play you have to be at your best."

After ASU gained a split at the Bay Area schools, it looks forward to its first two conference home games as very important contests which can help lead them to their goals they set forward for themselves. Sendek realizes that winning both games on the home stand is important, but in the larger picture the significance of a game played in Tempe shouldn't be greater than a road game.

"Every game is important and that's where the sentence needs to end," Sendek stated. "For different reasons, you want to win your next game. Whether it's home, away or elsewhere. I don't know how you make it more important.

"Being at home doesn't guarantee you anything. You have to outperform your opponent. The first night in the Pac-10, there was only one home team that won. You have to play well and sometimes when you run into a hot team, like we did the other night against Cal, you can even play fairly well and lose."

Harden noted the Sun Devils usually perform at a high level at Wells Fargo Arena and that he and his teammates certainly want to protect their territory during the Pac-10 slate. "We learned now how tough it's gonna be on the road," Harden said. "So we have to bounce back, win at home and protect our home court advantage.

"We lost a couple of (home) games that we shouldn't have lost. We learned from that. We're more experienced so we remember what happened and take it into this year."

Not that Arizona State is looking past the Beavers and onto the Oregon Ducks on Saturday, but it's also hard to ignore the sharp turnaround the maroon and gold will be facing this week. ASU tips-off at 8:30 pm on Thursday and in just less than 32 hours from the end of that contest they will have to face Oregon on Saturday for a Noon tip-off.

"It's very grueling," admitted Sendek. "That's not a lot of time in between to prepare or recover. You have to grind it out and step up the best you can."

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