Sun Devils Eager To Come Back After Layoff

With seven out of their next eleven games at home, one may think Rob Evans is eager for some home cooking. However the fifth year coach is just happy to play no matter where the venue is. The ASU head Basketball coach summarizes his team's performance as it approaches the mid-way point in the Pac-10 schedule, and talks about the Devils' next opponent – the California Golden Bears.

When asked about the lessons learned from the disappointing loss to Arizona last week, Evans said: "I didn't learn anything new. Early on we didn't shoot well and had a lot of turnovers. You can't turn it over against a good ball club like that, and be successful. When we quit turning the ball over we got good shots, and we were OK. But you have to get a good possession each time against a top team like Arizona." Some may argue that the eight-point loss was considered somewhat of a moral victory, since the Devils cut down a 26-point deficit to only five in the waning moments of the game. Evans disagrees to some extent. "I've been criticized about how excited I was in the way my kids came back in the second half (smile). We went into the game thinking we could win it, and I was pleased with the way the kids battled. This ball club didn't put their heads down and gave themselves a chance to win the ball game. I'm not happy with the loss, but pleased with the effort."

As mentioned, the ASU coach doesn't naturally assume that the slew of upcoming home games will immediately translate to a plethora of victories. He doesn't lose sight of the challenges that the rest of the schedule contains both in and away from Tempe. "We're looking forward to playing whether it's at home or on the road. I think we've been playing pretty well, but not quite as crisp as we have been. I think the time off has helped us. It has helped us in the past, but you never know until you actually play. The fact we had a chance to work on some stuff that we let slip a bit has helped us. Hopefully when we get to game time, we'll get better. Today in practice we were better than we were Thursday, and better than we were Saturday. We'll continue to shore up the things we need to get done. It helps us that we won two road games, and held serve (in all of their conference home games) until now. That's what you have to do. Even though we have some home games coming up, you still have to play well."

It would be easy to take Cal's unbeaten conference record with a grain of salt. A quick look at the standings shows that five of their seven Pac-10 wins came against the lower echelon of the league. Nevertheless, Evans is willing to give his next opponent all the credit in the world. "I think anytime you win ball games you're doing OK. I'm not necessarily concern with the wins, but how you win. Sometimes you can win not playing well, but Cal has played well. No matter whom they played, they're playing solid. Our schedule has been pretty tough. But Cal is a good team regardless of how the schedule has turned. It's no fluke the record that they have." The ASU coach isn't ready to anoint the Bears' achievements as astonishing either. "I think most people would say Cal is a surprise, but they're not a surprise to me. They got a lot of people back, and they have a lot of experience and talent. I knew they'd be pretty good." Furthermore, when it comes to the Pac-10 standings these days he thinks everything has gone according to schedule. "The league is just about as I thought it would be. It's a pretty balanced league outside of Arizona. There's a lot more ball to be played, and I'm excited for the rest of the season. It will all come out in the wash."

Two ASU players that will be followed closely by the fans this week are Donnel Knight and Jason Braxton. Knight, who's enjoying his best season in the maroon and gold, missed the Arizona game due to an academic issue, which has since then cleared up. Evans refuses to think that things may have been different with the senior in the lineup. "I don't use excuses. It affected the rotation…we were trying to find guys that were not as athletic on defense, and we lost quickness at that spot. But I give Arizona credit. They played well, and if we had Donnel Knight we could have still lost. I'm just happy that we have him back." Braxton's play has been erratic all season, and Evans believes that the sophomore needs to be in the right frame of mind to succeed. "From a mental stand point he has to get better. He has to try and understand that his game is distributing the ball. Young guys like him equate everything with scoring. If you're not scoring-you're not playing well, and that's untrue. My point guards are guys that distribute the Basketball and defend. Hopefully, we can get him playing better. Kyle (Dodd) has played better, and that certainly helped us."

On a lighter note, Evans who has short stint out of college with the Oakland Raiders was surprisingly pulling for the eventual Super Bowl champions who have the same mantra he has. "I'm a huge Raider fan, but I'm not in a bad mood. (smile) I was pulling for Tampa Bay because they play defense and create turnovers. Gotta like a team in any sport that plays good defense and creates turnovers (smile)." Those two factors may be the difference in ASU's chances for a sweep this week.

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