ASU humble Huskies, get first Pac-10 win

Aggressiveness on both ends of the court netted the Sun Devils their first conference victory, as they beat 22nd ranked Washington 68-51. ASU's tenacious defense limited the Huskies to just 36 percent shooting, while its assertiveness on the other end of court saw the hosts convert 30 of 38 free throws. This was Coach Herb Sendek's seventh triumph as an ASU coach over a ranked team.

Arizona State (11-5, 1-2 Pac-10) was paced by Rihards Kuksiks who tied a career-high contributing 27 points, including 5 of 8 beyond the arc. The junior, along with Eric Boateng each had a team-high nine rebounds. Ty Abbott had 17 points and Trent Lockett added 11.

"I'm really proud of our guys," Sendek commented. "I thought they played with a great sense of purpose and togetherness. I thought our effort was really good. Our determination is where it needed to be tonight.

"Obviously we got outstanding contributions from a number of players. We certainly rode Rik's shooting, Trent attacking the basket and getting to the line, Ty made some big shots…a really good win for us tonight."

According to the Sun Devil skipper, his squad's preparation leading up to Friday's night contest versus Washington (10-4, 1-2) was superb. This was especially gratifying after losing both games in Los Angeles to open the conference slate.

"We had a terrific week of practice," Sendek remarked, "and I was really pleased with how the guys came back, rolled up their sleeves and got to work. It was a fun week of practice. We can feel good about ourselves because of the investment that we made."

Even though the maroon and gold's identity is defined in large part on their suffocating defense, slowing down a very balanced Huskies team, who leads the league in scoring was naturally not going to be an easy task. Out rebounding the visitors 39-29 certainly aided matters.

"To play defense against them you have to be good across the board," Sendek explained. "Let's face it, they came into this game averaging 82 points a game. It's hard to pick one thing because they have capable three-point shooters, and if you give them a miss that's just the start of it because they are so good on the glass. I thought our guys really battled to limit them to just one shot.

"That's as good as we gang-rebounded in a while."

Isaiah Thomas led Washington with 20 points.

The biggest surprise of the night was the play of freshman center Ruslan Pateev. The newcomer who didn't play in the team's last three contests was inserted just 3:20 minutes into the game. He played 16 minutes and had four points, four blocks and two rebounds.

Sendek stated that players dictate their prospects for playing time based on their performance in practice, and needless to say that Pateev has been fairing well in that aspect.

"Ruslan is one of those guys – he doesn't miss a day," Sendek remarked. "He's an everyday guy. Whether he doesn't get into the game or not, every practice, every drill, every sprint, everything he does he gives all of himself.

"Guys who keep on chipping away like that, they eventually break the rock. He had a terrific week of practice."

Even though ASU was a solid 8 of 19 from three-point range, they made it a point to drive the basket more often. This strategy paid off as they went to the charity stripe 38 times converting 30 of those attempts.

"We thought that it was an important approach to the game," Sendek commented. "We played with a certain amount of aggressiveness on offense. Against them if you're timid they will just swallow you up because they are so tough and physical."

With this win the Sun Devils took one important step in erasing the memories of a 0-2 start in Pac-10 play. They will attempt to even up their conference record as they host Washington State Sunday at 12:30 pm. The Cougars edged the University of Arizona on the road 78-76.

"We had a tough opening to the Pac-10," Sendek acknowledged. "You come back and there is no easy game. To win any one game, you have to give all of yourself. You have to give everything you have. We have a very small margin for error.

"This can be a very tough, physical defensive conference. Just watching the quality of basketball here through our first three games, the quality of our opponents…I'm going to hold steadfast on the Pac-10 being a lot better than early season credit. When it's all said and done the league will be right there. It's very very tough."

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