In the weekend opener, the Sun Devils were frustrated by the Washington State Cougars while James Harden led the way for ASU with 26 points; he had no help as no other Devil scored in double digits as the Devils fell 65-55. The weekend ended worse than it started as the Washington Huskies tore up the ASU defense all afternoon. Jeff Pendergraph had a big double-double with 21 points and 13 boards but couldn't get stops in the 79-67 loss.
The Ducks couldn't stop the bleeding last week as they lost to their arch rival, Oregon State in Corvallis, 57-54. Tajuan Porter led Oregon with 22 points. The Ducks lost to the Sun Devils by 18 in January in the teams' first meeting in Tempe. The game was notable for Tajuan Porter's benching in the second half for lack of hustle.
Head Coach – Ernie Kent
Projected Starters –
G – Garrett Sim – (8.0 PPG, 2.4 APG)
G – Tajuan Porter – (14.3 PPG, 38% 3PT)
G – LeKendric Longmire – (10.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG)
F – Joevan Catron – (8.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG)
F – Michael Dunigan – (9.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG)
A big reason Oregon has struggled is because of their inability to consistently shoot the three. Porter, the team's primary scoring option has seen his shooting percentages dip this season as opposing defenses have zoned in on him. Michael Dunigan and Joevan Catron are both solid interior options but both players have a tendency to get into foul trouble. Garrett Sim has been thrown to the wolves this season and has responded with some great performances but has seen some rough patches. LeKendric Longmire and Drew Wiley were both thorns in the Sun Devils side in the first meeting and both players will use their versatility again on Thursday.
When Arizona State has the ball:
It will be the same old song and dance for the Sun Devils as James Harden will be the first option and Jeff Pendergraph will be the second option. Harden will need to penetrate more to spread out the offense and get open looks for Ty Abbott and Rihards Kuksiks. Derek Glasser will be a game-time decision as he recovers from a minor concussion and his presence on the floor will be important for ASU as they need to break out of their slump. Jamelle McMillan and Eric Boateng will be called upon to contribute off the bench.
Ty Abbott. To say he's been cold would be an understatement. Abbott has been absent from the Sun Devils offense for weeks now and he needs to start making defenses pay for leaving him open. Abbott has been nowhere to be found and the offense has struggled mightily.
Who will win?
Arizona State has had a difficult time creating offense opportunities in the recent weeks and the young defense of the Oregon Ducks may be just the remedy. Harden and Pendergraph will prove to be too much down the stretch in a game that will be closer than it should be.
Final Score – Arizona State 70 - Oregon 66