Sun Devil Hoops Weekend Wrap-Up

After splitting the opening weekend series of Pacific-10 Conference action with a blowout victory at Stanford and a subsequent loss at California, Arizona State bounced back from last Sunday's loss to the Golden Bears in highly impressive fashion, making short work of both Oregon State and Oregon in ASU's initial home series of league action for the 2008-09 season.

Despite a quick turnaround between games, with under 40 hours expiring between Thursday night's contest and Saturday afternoon's game, ASU had no significant difficulty in streaking past both the Beavers and the Ducks, using the bread-and-butter that has enabled the Devils to succeed thus far; lights-out shooting and sweltering defense.

In all, ASU defeated its Pacific Northwest foes by a combined 49 points, while allowing the Oregon schools to combine to shoot only 37.8-percent from the field (37-of-98) and a pitiful 24.3-percent from long distance (nine-of-37). Conversely, for the pair of games ASU maintained its national top-five shooting reputation by connecting on 59.8-percent of its field goals (52-of-87) and shot a respectable 42.9 percent from beyond the arc (15-of-35). Above all statistics, ASU proved this weekend that the team has simply elevated to a level it has not been in years and continues to legitimize expectations of contention for a Pac-10 title.

ASU's performance against the Beavers on Thursday was nothing short of amazing. Although Oregon State had established the Pac-10 standard for futility last season by taking the "oh-fer" in each conference game, the Beavs entered Tempe having upset USC in overtime the previous week, however Oregon State resembled its 2007-08 squad by suffering a substantial loss at Wells Fargo Arena, in which ASU took down the visitors from Corvallis, 69-38, marking the fewest points ever scored by a Sun Devil opponent in Pac-10 action.

Although both teams began rusty, the inferno quickly ignited for the Devils as the first stanza wound down, as at the 5:28 mark the Devils held a 19-15 lead, but burst to a 20-0 run spanning the remainder of the first half until the 14:23 point of the second half. Also, the second half witnessed near perfection with ASU connecting on 16-of-18 field goal attempts, with only reserves Jamelle McMillan and Taylor Rohde coming up short from the field. The star of the game, as usual, was James Harden, who had a virtually flawless evening, making 10-of-11 shots and converting on his only free throw attempt, while adding seven assists, four rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes.

After barely a day-and-a-half of rest, the Devils took to action against the Ducks on Saturday and again utilized an explosive run throughout the late first half and early second half to secure the victory. The two teams sloppily swapped leads throughout the first 11 minutes of play, but after Oregon's Kamyron Brown hit a three to put Oregon up 18-17, ASU, jumpstarted by a four-point play by Derek Glasser, would spark a 12-3 run to take a 10-point lead with five minute remaining in the first half and never looked back. The second half showcased more Sun Devil dominance, peaked by a 26-point margin at 67-41 with 9:50 left to play.

Glasser enjoyed perhaps the game of his career in Maroon and Gold, completing his first double-double with a career-high 11 assists to accompany 15 points. Aside from Glasser's standout performance, perhaps the most inspiring play came from ASU's bench, namely Eric Boateng and Jamelle McMillan, who combined for 17 points while contributing 22 minutes each. Despite uncharacteristic inaccuracy from the field and the free-throw line, Harden still led the way with 19 points and hustled and battled defensively to help drive the Devils' run.

Game Balls: Harden was simply on fire against Oregon State, with only an errant three-pointer to spoil a perfect shooting night and also added 19 points and four steals against Oregon on Saturday to cap off an excellent weekend.

Rihards Kuksiks continued his offensive consistency, chipping in 13 points each game while connecting on six-of-11 three pointers; making three each game.

Glasser was outstandingly efficient against the Ducks and between the two contests he made five-of-seven field goals, including two-of-two from three-point range, while totaling 18 points and dishing out 16 assists to only three turnovers.

McMillan provided an offensive spark as a reserve, contributing 17 total points and five assists, while converting four-of-nine three point attempts. Boateng gave the squad a boost of energy against Oregon with a well-rounded seven-point, six-rebound, two-block effort.

Needs Improvement: Sophomore Ty Abbott unfortunately continued his cold streak, combining for merely six points while making only three-of-nine shot attempts and missing all four three pointers. Pac-10 play has been greatly unkind to the Phoenix native, as he averages only 3.5 points-per-game among the four league contests, without having surpassed four points in any one of them after scoring in double figures in eight of 12 non-conference games.

Jeff Pendergraph combined for only 12 points and 10 rebounds, while playing a combined 40 minutes -- well below his 30.1-minute season average -- after early foul trouble against Oregon State and ultimately fouling out against Oregon. However, this was in many ways a blessing in disguise, as it enabled Pendergraph to rest after a mild injury suffered the previous week, and at the end of the day if Pendergraph can play only 18 and 22 minutes in conference action and ASU still wins by an average of nearly 25 points, that speaks volumes for the rest of the Sun Devil roster. For the first time in about a dozen games, ASU was outrebounded by the Ducks, 37-32, including 15 offensive rebounds by Oregon, while ASU converted only 20-of-33 foul shots that game as well.

Next Up: Things are about to get "real real, real fast" for the Devils, with a three-game road swing at USC, at UCLA and then down to Tucson to take on rival Arizona. This trio will likely unfold much more of the tale in terms of ASU's hopes for conference supremacy.

Two wins of the three would keep the Devils on a steady path toward their postseason aspirations, while there is also the added incentive of defeating USC, who controversially ousted the Devils in the Pac-10 Tournament last season, while ASU also looks to take down the Bruins for the first time since 2004 and the Sun Devils look to build upon last year's season sweep of the Wildcats.


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