Syracuse Bounces Devils Out of Tournament

MIAMI - The ASU-Syracuse game was touted as an intriguing matchup of zone defenses, but the game was anything but an offensive struggle, at least for the Orangemen. The Sun Devil defense couldn't stop the inside-out threat of Syracuse, allowing them to score 55.3 percent from the field, as they ultimately fell 78-67 losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

"I certainly was impressed with Syracuse today," said ASU head coach Herb Sendek. "We knew going in that they were an outstanding team and most certainly when you get a chance to compete against them up close and personal, that feeling is confirmed.

"Today I think we tip our hats to an outstanding Syracuse team."

ASU trailed for nearly 37 minutes of the game.

Much like their win on Friday against Temple, Arizona State (25-10) got very little offensive production from their star James Harden. Syracuse (28-9) made it hard for him to drive the lane in the first half, and the All-American finished with 10 points on 2-10 shooting, after a scoreless first half.

The sophomore scored his first field goal with 9:39 left in the game, and claimed that he wasn't carrying any after effects of the poor shooting game he had (1-8) in his team's last game.

"Yesterday when we had our practice I was making a lot of shots and had confidence," harden remarked. "Those shots were just not falling today. I had a lot of good looks. We just didn't make shots that we needed to cut the lead closer or even win the game."

"It's easy in hindsight to say that he could have been more aggressive," Sendek stated. "But part of the gift of his game is he really takes what's there. He does a lot for us and sometimes it doesn't show up on the stats sheet."

Rihards Kuksiks and Ty Abbott had 20 points each, and kept the Sun Devils in the first half. However both were regulated to three point shots, as the Orangemen controlled the paint; yielding just six points in that area while scoring 25 points themselves in that period and 31 for the game.

"They did a good job covering a lot of ground," said ASU point guard Derek Glasser. "It doesn't seem like they're there and then all of a sudden they've got two guys there. They do a phenomenal job guarding the paint."

"There are not a lot of openings to be found because they have great length," Sendek said.

Sun Devil forward Jeff Pendergraph was outmanned in his last game in the maroon and gold. He fouled out midway through the second half and ended the day with nine points and two rebounds.

"Just to sort of see the game slipping away towards the end and there's nothing I can do about it, that hurt," Pendergraph acknowledged.

After trailing 41-32 in the half, and trailing by as many as 14 points with 14 minutes left, ASU was able to cut down the lead, after an Abbott three-pointer to 61-57, with just over six and half minutes left in the contest.

However a trio of Syracuse three pointers put them ahead 70-59 with 4:04 left in the game and effectively put the game out of reach.

ASU shot 40.8 percent from the field and 13-35 for beyond the arc. They were just 14-22 from the charity stripe, and their missed free throws prevented them from cutting the lead earlier in the second half. Harden paced the Sun Devils with six rebounds and tied with Glasser for a team high five assists. Eric Devendorf led all players with 21 points, as his team faces Oklahoma Friday in the South Regional in Memphis.

One of ASU's best seasons comes to a disappointing end. With Pendergraph and more than likely Harden gone from next year's squad, some may think that making a consecutive trip to the Big Dance is impossible.

Yet, with a strong nucleus coming back and one of the better recruiting classes (which is still work in the progress) in recent memory joining the ranks of the maroon and gold, don't be surprised if the Sun Devils make a habit of being part of March Madness.

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