Sun Devils Look to Bounce Back

In a time where a team is struggling, that team looks to its senior leadership to help it get over the hump. After watching his team drop two Pac-10 home games this past weekend, Jeff Pendergraph knew he had to do something. The senior forward stepped up and talked to his teammates and let them know that they need to be better.

"As a senior and a leader it is something I have to do," said Pendergraph, "I tried to talk to them, sometimes you have to pull them aside. Some people you can't talk to in different ways.

"It hit me that I have five or six weeks left in college basketball. I want to say my senior year, we were down and we turned it around. I'm trying to make a movie out of this."

The most pressing issue Pendergraph addressed was the team's attitude after missing shots. While ASU's shooting has struggled, Pendergraph was most disappointed in what his teammates did after missing shots. .

"Missed a shot and walking back with your head down," explained Pendergraph, "Not letting it go after the shot, you can tell stuff was bothering guys and it was carrying over to defense. .

"It is hard to call out people; you pull guys aside and just talk to them. You know you can shoot and don't even worry about it. When you worry about it, it won't go in." .

"As a team we didn't show up to play. It was supposed to be a big weekend for us. This is what caused us to not go to the tournament last year." .

Head Coach Herb Sendek doesn't think that his team is taking worse shots than before and that the shooting woes just come from those good shots just not falling. .

"I think we are getting by in large the same quality of shots and in some instances better shots than when we were shooting so well," said Sendek, "I don't have any brilliant insights to explain that but, give or take, over the span of the last five games it has been pretty much the same." .

Sendek did admit that Pendergraph was right and that guys were thinking too much about making shots and it only snowballed their woes. .

"I think some of that has happened with some of our players, but you have to keep playing and working and take the next open shot." .

On the defensive end, shooters over the weekend torched ASU's zone defense. Sendek admits that teams in the Pac-10 are more familiar with the zone; it doesn't mean that is the reason teams shot well against them. .

"I think teams are increasingly more set on what they want to do against it, they've seen it more. We also have two other teams in our league playing zone, Oregon St. and Arizona. When an opponent comes to our state they know for that weekend they are going to see zone." .

"Our defense is more driven by our fundamentals than anything else. When Washington scored on Saturday it had more to do with Dentmon and Thomas being able to beat us off of the bounce. We could have played man to man and they would have beat us off the bounce," said Sendek, "There is always that X-factor called talent that has more to do with it than anything else. I thought Saturday the Washington guards controlled the game, I don't know if we played man or even if we played six guys if we could have done much about it." .

Sendek went on to say that he isn't going to change what has gotten ASU to where they are after one bad weekend. .

"If you are going to make a change, you want to do so in a way that it would have a chance at impacting the result," said Sendek, "If my arm is hurting, I'm not going to change the bandage on my leg because my arm is hurting. I would have to change something directed at the issue at hand and I don't know what that would have in store for us. Change just to change doesn't always have the same result." .

While the weekend sweep was a setback, Sendek knows there is half of the conference season left and ASU just needs to keep doing what it has been doing. .

"We need to do what we do and bounce back, believe the next shot is going in. We are the same team," said Sendek, "If it isn't for a close call against BYU that goes our way, a close win over IUPUI. There is any number of games that can tilt either way." .

"The instance when everybody thinks we are better than the Lakers, this is the same group that was really fortunate to win against IUPUI. We are not ready for the Lakers yet." .

"The season is filled with some great highs and challenging lows. It requires all of you. All of your heart, mind and soul get invested in this. Sometimes you are fortunate to have some exuberance, other times you feel stripped." .

Time to recover for the Devils is short as they have a road trip this weekend that could be a critical juncture in their season. While Thursday on paper doesn't seem to be much of a challenge against 0-9 Oregon, Sendek thinks you are crazy if you think it is an easy win. .

"This league is really good and it is no different than any other power conference. The difference between first and last is nothing. You don't think Oregon isn't capable of beating any team?" asked Sendek, "Wake Forest beats North Carolina and Duke and they go on the road and lose to the last place in the ACC, Georgia Tech. The Pac-10 is the same thing. The difference is nothing." .

"It is a great place, I love Mac court. I like those kinds of places. They smell of popcorn, the crowd is close. It is like a gym, it is not sterile. I love those types of venues for college basketball. The seats are probably too small for somebody that just ate two hotdogs." .

Sendek made it clear that just because he likes the arena, doesn't mean he enjoys playing in Eugene. .

"I'm not saying I like to go up there and play, those are tough places to play and win. There is something to be said about those kinds of places." .

Pendergraph agreed with his coach that playing at Oregon is never easy, regardless of their record. .

"It is real loud," laughed Pendergraph, "I think the court is going to fall apart because the building is 100 years old. It should be a building violation or something, but it works." .

After Thursday's game against the Ducks, ASU faces a tough road test against the much improved Oregon St. Beavers who have already taken down Cal, Stanford, USC and Oregon this season under new coach Craig Robinson, after not winning a conference game last season.

"I said it last year, but I know it was shrugged off as coach speak, they were a capable team last year," said Sendek, "I know how I felt going into play them, I thought they were very capable and they return that group. They are a good team and have some good players. I am not surprised at all." .

Guard Derek Glasser and forward Rihards Kuksiks have both missed practice the last two days with illnesses. Pendergraph said that the last two practices have been very intense and focused on running and conditioning. .

"Yesterday was intense; we did a lot of running. It was intense and a lot, a lot of running. Down the line and drill work. The whole practice was running. We hardly stopped the two to three hours we were there." .

"Last few games guys seemed tired, one way to make guys not tired is to run. It wasn't a punishment because we lost; he's just trying to get us in better shape." .

If those two are slowed by illness this weekend, that would put more pressure on Ty Abbott to snap out of his funk. .

"He's a great kid that strives on it," said James Harden of his roommate Abbott, "He loves basketball, period. He is going to have to pick it up in other areas; we talk about it every night." .

Harden admitted that he needs to pick up his game in the first half of games, mainly on the defensive end. The sophomore guard says he always thinks to create for his teammates, regardless of the situation. .

"That is my mindset throughout the whole game. The second half is time to step it up if you want to win. That is what I do. I do have to start playing better in the first half." .

His coach thinks that the notion that Harden is passive in the first half and waits to take control is just a factor of people having crazy expectations. .

"I don't think he starts deferring or getting others involved, I just want him to play. I trust him and want him to play," explained Sendek, "Take what is there and make good decisions." .

"What happens is with a guy like James, we create expectations that even if somebody is playing well can't live up to these creations we have. We create this amazing mythological figure in our minds, but when reality doesn't match our mythology, we say what's wrong? He really can't dunk with his feet, he missed a shot, and he didn't score 80 points in a game. Our mythology would be better reserved for Zeus." .

Sendek then was asked what kind of RPI Zeus had. .

"Probably pretty good," laughed Sendek. "I think he is playing Medusa this week."


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