Sun Devils true to their identity in win

Tuesday's matchup between Arizona State and TCU proved to be an accurate testament of what we can expect from the 2009-10 Sun Devils. Adjusting to an offense free of James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph, ASU will rely heavily on their defense to win games. Doing just that against the Horned Frogs, ASU secured the win in the final seconds with a final score of 52-49.

"That's how we have to be," senior center Eric Boateng said. "We have to be tough on defense and that's something that we're going to take pride in, it's going to be our identity this year. It was just good to see that we finished a play on defense.

"We just try to stick together, play together, do what we do…We just rallied together at the end and it feels great."

Boateng, with his career best game against TCU, was his team's most reliable option on offense and finished the evening with 12 rebounds and 21 points, his first ever double-double. The always humble center was simply focused on the pleasure of winning the hard fought battle.

"What's more gratifying is just the win," Boateng admitted. "We came together and we found a way to win. TCU really battled hard, that's a great team there. It's just a good thing to have been able to battle the way we did."

On the other hand, Coach Sendek had much to say about the accomplishment of his player.

"What can you say about Eric? Career best game, literally put us on his back and carried us across the finish line with 21 and 12."

"He just got good post position, he took his time and he finished. He was continued to improve his free throw shooting so he's converting at the line at a much better rate than he has in the past."

Learning to adjust to a team without a standout player such as Harden, the team found out quickly during tonight's battle that they are perfectly capable of banding together and using a collective effort to defeat competitive teams, such as TCU. Boateng claimed that on Tuesday night he didn't see, compared to last season, any difference in executing a late game winning play .

"I would have to say that what I saw was just the process," Boateng stated. "It's just this season; it's just another step in the season. We're learning things about each other and today was just a situation where we had to come together and overcome some things and I'm happy and grateful that we did."

A neck and neck competition throughout, Tuesday night's game remained that way until the Horned Frogs seemed to be breaking away with four minutes left in the second half. With the biggest lead of the game, TCU led 48-40 and Sendek called a timeout as the final, and ultimately successful, battle to close the gap was about to begin.

"I don't think there was anything he could tell us at that point," Boateng said of his coach. "He just drew up a play and that was just a situation when we had to bond and rally together as a unit. I can't remember what happened, somehow we got closer and we got closer and then Ty hit that big time shot."

Battling back, the Sun Devils were able to regain the lead as Trent Lockett assisted Ty Abbot with the game changing basket. "We had different options," Boateng commented regarding Abbott's game changing play. "If it didn't go to me, Trent was going to drive it and I think he did drive it and he dished it to Ty. Ty drove it and he made a big time shot, love him for that."

Securing the win also meant securing the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament, West Championship. The Sun Devils will advance to semifinals to face Duke. Boateng downplayed the upcoming game against his former team and along with Sendek now has his entire attention towards Friday's home matchup against the University of San Francisco. The early tip-off has Coach Sendek hoping Sun Devil fans will start their weekend early.

"We are excited about New York, make no mistake about it," acknowledged Sendek. "Who wouldn't be, that's only natural. But what we talked about in the locker room after the game was, 4:30 Friday, San Francisco is here.

"Right now, all of our energy has to be focused on Friday afternoon. Make sure everybody knows about this game, it's at 4:30, businessman special. We play at all kinds of times, 9:30 at night, and 4:30 on a weekday. It's like a gym class; you never know when we're going to play."

The truly hard fought battle was well deserved by the maroon and gold, especially due to taking the court only 22 hours after defeating Texas State. Nonetheless, the unusual 9:40pm tip-off, and grinding victory didn't wear down Coach Sendek, who was in high spirits, ready to celebrate the win, as he exclaimed shortly after midnight, "Let's go to Denny's!"

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