Devils not blinded by UCLA's struggles

In what has been a less than stellar non-conference slate for the Pac-10, UCLA has probably manifested the league's struggles the most. The Bruins are 5-7 and many believe that they won't be a factor in the conference race. Nonetheless, ASU coach Herb Sendek and his players still have the utmost respect for their first Pac-10 contest opponent.

"UCLA has really good players and really good coaches," Sendek remarked. "They're going to be a great challenge for us on Thursday afternoon. I think we know that first hand. Our guys know who they have, they've competed against them in high school and in college.

"You go on the road in the conference and you face a team like UCLA…we're going to have to play extremely well, as well as we played in any game this year, to win on Thursday afternoon."

Sendek added that he doesn't try and explore the reasons for UCLA's struggles, and rather concentrate on his own squad.

"Trust me when I tell you that I am stretched to know what's going on with my own team," Sendek explained. "My cup overflows searching for answers with our own squad, wondering why we do things and why we don't do other things. That's where my focus needs to be."

Guard Derek Glasser feels that the Bruins are "as stacked as anybody" in the conference, even though their record won't reflect that. He believes that UCLA is a team in transition with many newcomers and previously seldom used players thrusted into key roles this year.

The senior does however believe that two of the Bruins' players have to be neutralized to have any success.

"Malcolm (Lee) who I think they really are looking to become their guy is really starting to come into his own now," Glasser noted. "Michael Roll is one of the best shooters in the country. So that's going to be a big key for us if we can limit Lee and Roll which will be hard."

Lee and Roll average 14.5 and 13.2 points per game respectively.

Another Pac-10 season for ASU starts as usual…

…on the road, as it has the last five straight seasons.

"I think it's our fate," Sendek quipped. "I don't know what we did somewhere along the way, but they're sending us and Arizona five straight years to start. But no matter where you play, home or away, there's nothing easy. It's so hard to get one win."

Glasser stated that he enjoys road games, and feels like some of the newcomers on the team are already tested this season with ASU playing in New York City and Provo, Utah. The point guard also likes the timing of this particular visit to Los Angeles.

"I think with school being out the crowds won't be as bad as they would if we played (at UCLA) in February," Glasser commented. "I think that will help us a little bit."

The senior feels that this season more than any other, it's imperative for the maroon and gold to have a strong start to Pac-10 play.

"We play UCLA and USC and then we turn around with Washington and Washington State who are arguably the best two teams in the conference so far," Glasser said. "For us at worst split and at best go 2-0 is incredibly important for our success this year.

"In our eyes we really feel that we can compete for the (Pac-10) championship. Having Washington and Washington State, having been so unsuccessful in the past three years with them, being 1-1 or 2-0 coming home against them is something that we really need to have."

Only basketball on their minds

The maroon and gold resumed practices on Sunday after a short holiday break. With school out of session the players can't help but be consumed just with basketball these days.

"it's kind of empty, lonely," guard Jamelle McMillan acknowledged. "I'm used to it the last couple of years here. I actually think it helps that we are on the road when people are gone and we come back right when school starts and it will be an exciting game with Washington.

"I think this (time of year) gives us some down time, where we are just in the gym and we can really focus on what we are supposed to be doing. That helps especially with no homework and that kind of stuff."

"You always face reasons to be distracted," Sendek said. "If that's the path you want to go down. Right now our guys had just a couple of days away for the holidays and came back to campus that is empty, except for themselves. They're back to work and preparing for the Pac-10."

Don't call it a letup

In their recent victories against San Diego State and USC Upstate, the Sun Devils saw second half double digit leads dwindle dangerously close to surrendering. Sendek doesn't feel that those opponents were allowed, so to speak, back into the game by his squad.

"Teams make plays and get things done," Sendek explained. "I don't think it was a matter of our guys letting up. You go back to the San Diego State game and you had Derek go down with an ankle injury. Rik (Kuksiks) and Eric (Boateng) both had four fouls. So we had three starters in harm's way during a stretch. Good teams make runs and basketball is a game of runs.

"I don't think it's a case where we became complacent."

Glasser admitted that while the team has played some good halves of basketball, it has yet to play a complete game. "I think the first half against Duke was one of our best halves," Glasser recalled. "We just don't have that many good games. Hopefully that's something we can start doing so we can get some wins in conference.

"I don't think anything is preventing us from playing 40 minutes. I think it's more of a mental thing for us being able to play 40 minutes without any slippage. We go six minutes here, four minutes there without scoring a point and those are the things we are going to have to limit in conference to come out successful."

Harden, Pendergraph representing well in the NBA

When the Oklahoma City Thunder visited the Phoenix Suns last week, Glasser attended the game and was excited to see his former high school and ASU teammate play live on the NBA level for the first time, scoring 14 points in a victory.

"He played really well," Glasser remarked. "I think he got some bad calls having some ‘and 1's' taken away because of charges. It was good to see him win."

Glasser was not surprised to see Harden being able to drive to the basket on the NBA level with the same success that the ex-ASU star had in college. "It's like my freshman year," Glasser stated, "Coach used to yell at me about keeping Aaron Brooks in front of me and now nobody (in the NBA) can keep Aaron Brooks in front of them (laughs)."

McMillan, son of Portland Trailblazers Head Coach Nate McMillan, said that with a rash of injuries plaguing that team he didn't have to lobbying his father to give Jeff Pendergraph more minutes.

The forward who was sidelined with a hip injury for the first month and half of the season, played in just four games thus far. Nonetheless, in his last outing he scored a career high 11 points in just 19 minutes of play.

"Jeff, he's unbelievable," McMillan said. "He carried everything from here going down there. My dad loves him because he pays 110 percent. He's still yelling the same way, going after every rebound.

"He's aggressive and that's what we need. He's one of those sparks. The crowd gives him a standing ovation every time he comes out. They love him as well and he's having fun. He's doing a very good job for us and I'm proud of him."


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