Defense betrays ASU in home loss

Just a couple of weeks ago, it would be borderline ludicrous to suggest that ASU's trademark would become a deficiency. Yet, following two consecutive losses the once suffocating Sun Devil defense is for the most part nowhere to be found. Visiting Cal shot 50.9 percent from the field and held off an ASU rally, notching a 78-70 road win.

"First, you have to give Cal a great deal of credit," said Arizona State Head Coach Herb Sendek. "They're a hard team to guard and they score consistently against almost everybody. They are a high octane offensive team.

"But having said that, for us to have a chance, for us to come away with a victory – we have to be much better on the defensive end of the floor. We're not going to get into a shootout this year with them and prevail. We were unable to put together enough good stretches of stops."

Trent Lockett scored seven of Arizona State's (14-7, 4-4 Pac-10) first nine points as the hosts jumped to a 14-8 lead in the first five minutes of play. Cal (14-6, 6-2) went on a 10-0 run to grab an 18-14 advantage less than four minutes later.

The Bears were up by as many as nine points in the first half and had a 40-33 lead at halftime.

The second stanza spelled even more trouble for the maroon and gold, as ASU trailed 54-38 at the 14:57 mark. Freshmen Demetrius Walker and Victor Rudd were inserted into the lineup and with a with an 8-0 run brought down the deficit to 54-46 two and half minutes later.

ASU continued to battle, and following a three-point play by Eric Boateng were trailing just 67-66 with 3:23 remaining in the contest. A three-point basket in the ensuing possession by Cal's Jorge Gutierrez pushed the lead up to four points and effectively ended any chance for an ASU comeback.

"We were looking for a spark," said Sendek. "We fell behind by 16 and as things were unraveling for us, we had to get an energy spark. I thought that the group that went in there fought hard and we eventually cut the lead to one. That group played with energy and played together."

Ty Abbott led ASU with 20 points, while Lockett had 15. Boateng tallied 19 points (13 in the second half) and 13 rebounds.

"Eric played an outstanding game for us," commented Sendek, "achieving a double double that may be his career best combination of numbers. We did stress the importance of punching the ball inside and Eric made some big plays for us."

The senior's fine play was negated somewhat by his counterpart from Cal, Jamal Boykin, who had 25 points and 10 rebounds. Jerome Randle also had 25 points for the visitors, and Patrick Christopher added 21.

"I don't know that it was anything different that we faced fairly regularly defensively," said Sendek defensive performance tonight. "It usually revolves around our fundamentals. We gave up points in the post, we gave up points off the bounce, and we gave up points in transition.

"Having said that we still cut it to one and had a chance, while on the other end we are shooting 40 percent from the field, 30 percent from three (point range) and we are still battling."

The Sun Devils will close their three-game home stand on Saturday at 2:00 pm hosting Stanford, who fell 76-68 to Arizona. ASU will look to halt their recent skid in Tempe, which will require a significant improvement on both ends of the court.

"All we can do is move on to the next game," said Sendek. "We are going to have to play very well. As you have seen here throughout the first eight (league) games, on any given night to be competitive in this league, we are going to have to play really well.

"We are going to have to really defend and really control things on offense. If we don't do those two things we aren't going to win."

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