Devils sharp beyond the arc in victory

ASU knows all about effective zone defenses and how to combat them. Early in their game versus UC Santa Barbara, the visitors showed some of their abilities in that aspect. However, when Rihards Kuksiks heated up from three-point range, converting seven times in the first half, and his teammates tighten up their defense it was smooth sailing en route to a 69-42 victory.

The Sun Devil overall converted 15 of 36 shots from three-point range. Aside from Kuksiks career-high eight three-pointers, there was more history made tonight at Wells Fargo Arena. After tying the school's all-time record in assists last game, Derek Glasser notched seven assists tonight which now put alone atop that category with 461, a feat which drew a standing ovation from the 6,549 in attendance.

"I can tell you that we were really on edge coming into tonight's game," acknowledged Arizona State Head Coach Herb Sendek. "We have the outmost respect for Santa Barbara. They are more than capable of getting it going beyond the arc.

"Their defense is different. It does a good job keeping you off balance and is difficult to prepare for. They really extend and pressure the ball and probably most significantly they play really hard. So we knew we had to play well tonight."

ASU (9-3) and UC Santa Barbara (4-4) mainly traded three-point shots the first nine minutes of the game, as the maroon and gold led 16-14 at the 11:06 mark. Kuksiks and Jamelle McMillan, who had 11 points in the first half, largely contributed to a 21-6 ASU run to end the half.

The Sun Devils struggled offensively in the second half, shooting 37 percent in that period, but continued to make life miserable for the visitors on offense limiting them to 22 points. On the night the Gauchos shot just 36.2 percent and had 19 turnovers.

"Obviously our defense was very good," Sendek remarked. "The last two games we have been able to force turnovers and that has been a big difference for us."

Kuksiks led all players with 24 points, which all consisted of his eight three-point baskets (on 16 attempts). Yet, just as impressive was McMillan's stat sheet which included a career-high in points (16), assists (6) and tying his best mark in steals (5).

"Jamelle continues to play some outstanding basketball for us all the way around," Sendek said. "He's playing terrific. He has been incredibly consistent from the first day of practice. He always, without exception, gives great effort. He is developing into a five-star general. A great leader.

"It is not the least bit surprising. His daily approach is remarkable. He just comes and gives you everything he has and he doesn't miss a day. He doesn't miss a drill. He doesn't miss a segment. Guys like that get better and right now he's developing into one of the all-time great leaders for us."

Aside from the win, the Sun Devil skipper has been pleased generally pleased with his team's progression as ASU winds down its non-conference schedule and begins Pac-10 play is just ten days. The Sun Devils next play host to South Carolina-Upstate on Wednesday at 2 p.m.

"I think we're getting better," Sendek commented. "To be honest with you, I think we played a really good schedule. Through tonight's game we have been tested. I think that is helping us moving forward.

"I think we are progressing every game," Glasser claimed. "We still haven't put 40 minutes together. I think we get closer and closer every game. Defensively, I think we're starting to click. We are playing our best defense of the year so far and I think it's only going to get better as the season progresses."

Game Notes

After tying the school's all-time record in assists last game, Derek Glasser notched seven assists tonight which now put alone atop that category with 461.

"It's an awesome feeling," Glasser admitted. "But I give a lot of credit to all the guys I played with, because without them I wouldn't be able to do it."

The senior added that he knew at the end of last season that if he had the same number of assists this year that he would have an excellent shot of shattering ASU's third longest basketball record.

However, even on a personal historic night such as this, Glasser was more than willing to shower his backcourt teammate, Jamelle McMillan, with compliments. Especially in light of his own ailing left ankle which he twisted in the San Diego State game last Saturday.

"He's our utility man," Glasser stated concerning McMillan. "Whatever we seem to need he does for us. A lot of games this year we hadn't needed him to score and tonight he got us off to a good start early, made his shots, got guys shots…with him on the floor it makes my job that much easier.

"Tonight he knew he had to take a little bigger role, just because I was 50 percent tonight. So he thought he had to step up this game, because I wasn't able to do some of the stuff I normally can. I give him a lot of credit tonight. No matter what he always plays 110 percent. He does everything he needs to do in order to help us win."

With his deft three-point shooting tonight, you would never know that Rihards Kuksiks was shooting just 3-15 from that range in the last two games. Like any pure shooter, the junior went through a natural lull and dug himself out of it.

"He's one of those guys that even when he's a slump, when he takes his next shot we all think that it's going in," Sendek stated. "He's a good shooter. His form and technique are so good that the law of averages is always going to favor him. His shot is picture perfect.

"Rik can be his own worst critic on offense. I'm his worst critic on defense. I wish sometimes guys cared as much about not getting the rebound as they do missing a shot."

"We were making fun of him after game," Glasser said. "We said ‘seven threes in the first half and just one in the second half?' and he said ‘I got tired.' I guess he wore down a bit. 16 (shot attempts) is a lot of threes.

"He was taking some ill-advised shots. When he just settles down and takes shots within himself, within the offense – he's such a good shooter."

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