Devils hang on to beat Ducks

Following the Oregon State game, it was déjà vu all over again for ASU: sloppy offense was ultimately bailed out by a solid defense en route to victory. The Sun Devils had nine of its 15 turnovers in the first nine minutes of the game against Oregon, yet proceeded to go on an 11-2 run to end the half. ASU prevailed 61-51 over the Ducks and completed a season sweep of the Oregon schools.

"I thought our guys did a pretty good job on the defensive end and although we bent at times and found ourselves trailing for most of the first half," said ASU Head Coach Herb Sendek, "our defense allowed us to stay in the neighborhood. Offensively, once again we didn't do a good job of taking care of the basketball, our passing; decision making made it hard and put extra pressure on our defense.

"We were having a hard time passing and catching. It seemed like there was a sequence where there were three or four passes in a row we were trying to catch (former MLB knuckleball pitcher) Phil Niekro."

Arizona State 18-8 (8-5 Pac-10) scored just six points in the first nine minutes, and were in danger of a large deficit as Oregon (12-12, 4-8) lead 24-15 with 4:18 left in the half. The Sun Devils at that point took better care of the ball and staged yet another comeback.

"We talked about just chipping away," stated Sendek. "We were down nine and we had a time out saying ‘if we can get this down to six by halftime' and then all of sudden it's four and we said ‘let's get greedy and see if we can get it tied by halftime."

Rihards Kuksiks, who came off the bench for the third consecutive game, scored nine straight points in the last 2:40 minutes, including a three-point basket with three seconds left in the period to tie the game at 26 apiece at the half.

"I thought Rik took a step in the right direction today," commented Sendek on Kuksiks' play. "Obviously he has been having his struggles and I thought he came in and was better."

Kuksiks, who scored 12 points today, admitted that he has been in a funk the last few weeks, specifically with his poor decision making with the ball, defense, and not blocking out.

"But in this one I got it going a little bit and started making plays," said Kuksiks, "so coach kept me in the game. I just have to build up from this one and give the best to the team.

"I know my role right now. I haven't been playing well and I need to just play better so I can maybe get back into the starting lineup. Hopefully it's going to happen, I'll get healthier and help my team as best as I can."

After the game the junior was sporting ice packs on his left wrist, left knee and right thumb. He admitted that those ailments probably affected his play somewhat, but contended that "I have to be better even though I have these bumps. I have to be better for my teammates."

A three pointer by Ty Abbott, ASU's leading scorer today with 19, at the 15:42 mark of the second stanza put the maroon and gold ahead 33-32 and gave his team the lead for good. ASU led by as many as 15 points with 7:27 left in the contest and survived a five minute scoring drought thereafter to come away with another gritty victory.

"Our guys just kept playing and did a good job regrouping among themselves," said Sendek.

Eric Boateng contributed ten points and a game-high seven rebounds to lead ASU to a 33-24 advantage on the boards, including 11 offensive rebounds, an aspect that naturally played a significant role in Saturday's win.

"Up in Eugene they really had their way with us on the glass," recalled Sendek, "and it was a big point of emphasis going into today's game. They had 19 offensive rebounds in our first meeting and we did a much better job on the glass."

ASU shot 44.9 percent from the field and 10 three pointers. Derek Glasser had five assists, as did Abbott. Oregon was paced by Malcolm Armstead who posted 16 points.

Today's game falls under the ‘not a thing of beauty' category, but more importantly, is also classified as a ‘W.' Nonetheless. Kuksiks and his teammates are cognizant of the fact that with a challenging three-game road stretch coming up that they can ill afford to play at the same level as this latest home stand.

"If you win the game you did your job," he said, "but we have to build on our games, see what we did right and what we did wrong and improve on the next game. It is going to catch up with us if we are going to continue to turn the ball over. Last couple of games we turned it over 15 times, we have to keep it under ten especially on the road."

ASU will meet its archrival in Tucson a week from Sunday, Tip-off is scheduled at 3:30 pm.

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