UA's Pac-10 Struggles Don't Faze Sun Devils

The Wildcats knew that the 2009 conference slate could be a rough one, and a 2-4 record thus far has validated that prediction. Yet, regardless of its archrival's record, ASU is mindful of Arizona's talent and is expecting this contest to be as challenging as any other league game they will have this season.

"Things are never that absolute," Sendek said of Arizona's Pac-10 record. "They could have easily won that game at USC. The two Arizona schools have played four of the first six on the road. The teams that you are playing every night are really good. Our league is no different than the Big East, the ACC…every night you play against a really good team. Most of the games are really close.

"Our league is very good and I think we need to recognize that and proclaim that. You could be a really good team and lose a couple in a row, a few in a row. It's not that hard to fathom."

Sendek stated that he has great respect for Arizona interim head coach Russ Pennell, who wasn't only ASU's assistant coach under Rob Evans but also the Sun Devil network radio color analyst last season. The Sun Devil skipper praised Pennell for informing him ahead of time of taking what was back then as an assistant coach position with the Wildcats.

"He's a good person," Sendek said. "He was very thoughtful and considerate given the nature of the change he was about to make. He's a good friend.

"He's a heck of a coach and he's a son of a coach. So he has lived this and been through this all his life."

The ASU head coach also heaped praise on Pennell's squad.

"I think they're a very talented team," Sendek stated. "They're well put together, well-coached. I think Russ has done a terrific job with them. No different than our games last weekend, we gonna have to go on the road and play really, really well to win."

"We know that they're not the same team as they were last year," said forward Jeff Pendergraph, "and we have the same people but we're not the same team. So it's gonna be an up in the air thing. If guys want to win you gotta play hard.

"For anybody, not just us, to win there (at Arizona) you have to be really good. You can't just walk in there and leave with a ‘W' all the time. If you do (win) you're probably missing a finger, get your eyes poked out…you really have to go in there and earn it."

One Wildcat player in particular that has impressed the ASU head coach is Jordan Hill.

"He can be a human highlight film," Sendek said. "He and Blake Griffin have the most double doubles in the country. You hear a lot about Blake Griffin (being the best post player in college basketball) and to me Jordan Hill has to be in that conversation."

"It's just fun playing against guys like that," Pendergraph said about facing Hill. "It's fun going up against someone that is as good as you are. He presents challenges for me that I have to worry about, and I present challenges for him. Playing in games like this are fun and also fun to watch.

"He plays really hard and when he's in the game he's a real difference maker for his team. He does so many things for them offensively and defensively."

Despite the shooting woes of Arizona State guard Ty Abbott, which are in part due to his injured thumb, Sendek noted that he doesn't plan to start Jamelle McMillan and have Abbott come off the bench. "We got a pretty good rotation going right now," Sendek said. "Who you start in basketball isn't all that important."

Sendek explained that while the coaches and players will naturally lend their support to Abbott during his struggles, that any improvement by the sophomore "would have to come from within…and I have great confidence he will. Just like he answered the bell on so many occasions previously for us."

The ASU coach said that Abbott's thumb is "getting better…for a while there it was very difficult to catch a pass and dribble. I'm sure the psyche of the whole thing, as an offensive player, was challenging to deal with."

Sun Devil Source Top Stories