Devils Searching for Answers After Home Loss

After last weekend's back to back overtime losses to the Washington schools, it would be tempting to blame ASU's 74-64 loss to Stanford to the proverbial sports hangover that teams suffer following heartbreaking defeats. However, ASU head coach Herb Sendek and senior forward Jeff Pendergraph don't subscribe to that theory.

"I can't go there – I don't know," Sendek said. "How do you know something like that? The minute you allow yourself to trespass into that area, you're using a crutch and you're making an excuse."

"This is a crazy mystery to me," Pendergraph stated. "As a team we talked about it, tried to put in the past and worry about what is in front of us. If you stay in the past too much, you'll miss what's going on in the front.

"We try to get everybody on the same page. We had good practices this week too. Everything was right there for us to be good. Game time comes and it's not there."

This was arguably the worst the maroon and gold looked all season. The Sun Devils appeared lifeless on offense shooting 36 percent from the field, and all night couldn't slow down the visitors who converted at a 50 percent clip.

"I thought the whole building had a lack of energy," Sendek noted. "It certainly was focused on us on the court. I don't think we played well in any category. I thought we struggled to score; we struggled to make shots…even the most open shots of the night seemingly hit the rim and clanked out for us.

"To what degree we allow that to spill over onto the defensive end is a good question. Our defense wasn't nearly as good as it needs to be, given our offensive potency right now.

"I know we're two possessions away from winning the last seven out of eight (games). But the fact of the matter is that we haven't done that. We've lost now three in a row and tonight's effort was most certainly disappointing."

Pendergraph doesn't know if his squad's performance was due to lack of focus, and overall thought that the team was prepared for the Cardinal. "It's the last two home games, why wouldn't you be ready?" he wondered. "It doesn't make sense not to be."

The senior admitted that the team's spirits are naturally extremely low right now, since they haven't dropped three in a row all year. Furthermore, the forward hinted towards a lack of cohesion.

"If we were all on the same page, we wouldn't have lost," Pendergraph acknowledged. "I don't know where everybody is at right now, but as a team we're disappointed in how we're playing right now. This isn't us. Three (loses) in a row? It doesn't make any sense."

Pendergraph was just 2-4 from the field, but was also 11-14 from the free throw line. In the last meeting with Stanford he scored a career-high 31 points, and the Cardinal's defensive adjustments limited his productivity on Thursday night.

"I think they just helped a little bit more," Pendergraph explained. "I think when we first played them; they were just so conscious about James (Harden) and left their post guy out to dry a little bit. In this game the guy was breathing down my neck, but they also covered to the corner too. So they really made sure that it didn't happen again what happened in January."

In fact, that January 90-60 victory is vague memory according to the forward, and his team's dominance in that game was put in the correct context as they prepared for the rematch.

"Coach all week has been telling us all week ‘don't let (last game) fool you.' We were trying to get ready for (the game) and we weren't," Pendergraph said.

Harden led all players on the floor with 22 points, but also had to labor for his offense converting just 8-20 from the field.

"He's facing a lot of coverage," Sendek said. "People are really concentrating on him and he's not making shots like he's capable right now."

Ty Abbott continued his offensive struggles tonight in league play. The sophomore is averaging 2.8 points per game through 17 Pac-10 contests, and was scoreless against Stanford missing both of his shots. Sendek stated that he wasn't sure what the coaching staff could do to pick up Ty from his long slump.

"At the end of the day nobody is playing for Ty, expect Ty himself," Sendek explained. "He has to do it by himself, so we just stand beside him, encouraging him to take good open shots and that's the best we can do right now."

Dwelling over a certain player or the team's overall poor performance on Thursday night, cannot take place as Arizona State prepares for a Saturday Noon tip-off against Cal who beat Arizona in Tucson 83-77. The game will be battle for a third place finish in the conference.

"It's going to be a great challenge for us," Sendek acknowledged. "Cal is an enormously talented team, we have a short turnaround, and there's not going to be a lot of strategic implementations for this game.

"It's gonna be a gut check game for our basketball team."

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