Sun Devils resolve to bounce back

There has been an outbreak of amnesia among the Sun Devil basketball team, which is just fine following a winless road trip to Los Angeles. Head Coach Herb Sendek and his players have already put this past weekend in the rearview mirror as they prepare for their first Pac-10 home series of the season versus the Washington schools.

"We're a 'next game' program," Sendek said. "Whether we win or lose we try to learn from our experience and move on to the next game.

"We can't be Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, back with a loss and our heads between our tails, woe-is-me, have black balloons floating around for pity parties. That would be very self-destructive."

Guard Jamelle McMillan admitted that the 40-minute bus ride to the team's hotel, following a 47-37 loss to USC was "dead silent" and that he and teammates were then hurting in a major way. However, the Sun Devils' psyche has much improved since last Saturday.

"There is a next day," McMillan said. "That's the beauty of the sport. Adversity comes and times like this is why you play the game. You have to come together and work as a group of one unit. Can't let guys' minds wonder. We do that, we're in trouble.

"Right now mentally we're in a good place. We had a really good practice yesterday. Guys working hard, and the energy has been probably the highest it has been all season. Guys understand and recognize what we are up against and what we need to do in order to be successful."

The USC loss was naturally a tough one to swallow on many levels, but to the Sun Devils' credit they tried to fight through their offensive woes for the entire 40 minutes and in the second half made sure that they were always in striking distance and thus never gave up. Coach Sendek stated that he wouldn't expect anything else from his squad.

"That's not to say that in any given game we won't get beat and beat soundly," said Sendek, "but we would never do that (give up). We have too many competitive guys, too many good people on our team and they have too much pride. They will battle.

"I thought our defense against USC was terrific, on a night where we had offensive struggles. We didn't allow that to discourage us in a way that we lost our focus on the defensive end. That was very encouraging."

Sendek maintained that his team's mindset going into this week's games was fine.

"Obviously we wanted to win," commented Sendek. "We wanted to play better than we did. But like I said earlier you must have the discipline to move on. We just got back to work, the same way like we have after big wins.

"There are a lot of games in college basketball. They come fast and furious."

A season of change

ASU's 10-3 non-conference record may have not fully manifested the adjustments that the maroon and gold had to go through this year with the departures of James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph to the NBA. Nonetheless, Sendek acknowledged the fact that the transition for his players who are consequently playing different roles is still an ongoing process.

"It shouldn't come as a surprise because that's all we talked about going into the season," Sendek said of the transition. "Here in the very formative years of our program we find ourselves in a position where we are trying to replace two NBA players. That's hard to do if you have a great foundation, let alone when you are scratching and clawing like we are to try and grow as a program.

"Now some of the guys like Rik (Kuksiks), Derek (Glasser) and Ty (Abbott) who weren't the first, second or third options last year all of a sudden find themselves in a different position.

"So our team has to find a way to make each better collectively. So it may not be a function where a certain guy isn't playing as well as he used to. He may be playing about as he plays, but all of a sudden you don't have James and Jeff around and the picture changes. So we are still working through that."

Huskies tough to handle

Coming into this season Washington has been labeled as one of the best teams in the conference, and the Arizona State coach hasn't seen anything this far to dismiss that projection.

"They are a team that could go really far in March," Sendek claimed. "They're deep, they're experienced, they're athletic, and they have balance inside and out. As we get into Pac-10 play here, you get to see these teams up close and personal and it really dispels the notion that the Pac-10 is somehow not as good.

"We may not be a league that has as many NBA players as it had the last two years. But you watch USC, you have Washington in here…these teams are pretty good."

A great deal of Washington's success this year can be attributed to Quincy Pondexter who has elevated his play and is a legitimate candidate for Pac-10 Player of the Year honors. Along with Isaiah Thomas this tandem has formed the best backcourt in the league.

"Pondexter is having a career-best year," acknowledged Sendek. "Their backcourt is deep. They keep on coming at you in waves. They are one of the few teams where if they substituted five guys for the first five, and you're not paying attention, you may not even know that they did it. There is not a drop-off."

"Quincy is moving up the scouting report," ASU guard Derek Glasser commented. "He's playing like player of the year so far, which is great for him. He's one of my good friends so it's good to see him play that well. Hopefully, he has a one-game slipup here (smile).

"We're not counting on that and we'll have to play one of our best games of the year to win."

Friday night's (not) alright for fighting

Last year's Pac-10 tournament semifinal game against Washington was one of ASU's most memorable post-season moments and not only because of an impressive 75-65 victory .

Washington guard Venoy Overton ran into Harden after an ASU score, and after being decked from the impact pulled the Sun Devil guard's jersey and dragged him down. As a result Derek Glasser stood over the Huskies' guard and started jawing at him. All three players were assessed technical fouls.

Does Glasser expect another altercation to take place on Friday?

"I don't know," Glasser replied. "They're a tough, physical team, and we're not going to let anybody come into our house and throw us around. We're not going to back down from anybody. We're both tough teams, and we're just going to play the game.

"I'm not going to say anything is going to happen because I don't think there will be, but it's basketball, not dancing, so you never know."

Walker up and running

Freshman Demetrius Walker stood out in ASU's two losses to UCLA and USC, as he averaged 9.5 in those contests with the lion share of his points coming in the second half during comeback efforts.

"He's practiced better and that has carried over to the games," Sendek said of his guard. "Demetrius is a young man who has very good talent. He had knee surgery in the spring and was on the sidelines for three months. Making the transition from high school to college is challenging enough when you don't have to take three months off.

"He's given us a real boost, some scoring punch and as he continues to develop his practice habits and practice well, I fully expect it to carry over to the games."

Healthy as can be expected

Sendek said that Glasser (ankle) and Abbott (knee) have been for the most part feeling better after last weekend's games in Los Angeles.

"You get to this point of the season and probably everybody spends 15 or 20 minutes in the training room every day," Sendek said. "Fortunately, we don't have any debilitating injuries right now."


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