Is Arizona Just Another Game?

"We envisioned this when we came here – crowds like this and important games like this." Says Coach Rob Evans on the unprecedented hype surrounding the rivalry game this weekend, "From that stand point it's nice to see folks interested in basketball." . However, he's also pragmatic about the upcoming Arizona game. "It's important that we win our next basketball game, and that's our in-state rival. It's a big game, but they're all big games."

If there will be any anxiety close to tip-off and during the game, that's a notion that Evans fully welcomes. "They'll be butterflies in this game, and they're butterflies in every game. If there's no butterflies, than guys aren't ready to play. This our in-state rival, and this is a game that our guys will look forward to playing." The ASU coach said that the practices this week focused primarily on his own team's play, which he believes is the key for success. "We work on us. We don't talk much about the opposition until later in the week. We try to make sure that we do things offensively and defensively to be prepared every team we play."

In Football, coaches usually welcome a bye week or just extra time in general to prepare for a big game. Rob Evans isn't sure if having seven days before the Arizona game carries any positives or negatives with it. "I never had a full week off before this game since I've been here, so I don't know if I like it or not. I will say this, it gives us an opportunity to work on some things that we need to work on, and I think it gives a chance this late in the season to get a little rest and get your legs back. I don't know if it really makes a whole lot of difference whether you're playing Thursday or Saturday. I think the Saturday game is tougher, when you play on Thursday because you're a little fatigue mentally. It's the same for both teams – we both have a week off. It really doesn't make any difference."

In the game played in Tucson last month, ASU senior Donnell Knight was sidelined because of a pending academic issue. Evans talked about the impact it had then, and what it means to have him in the lineup on Saturday. "All year long we've been working on rotations. When one guy, especially a starter, isn't in the game that really messes up the rotation. It's important for match up reasons too. We play 8-9 guys, but we have certain guys in certain positions, that are defensively better."

With the commanding presence of freshman Ike Diogu in the middle, and the perception (which is at times is deceiving) that the Sun Devils usually struggle with their outside shot. Therefore, one can fully expect Arizona to play zone defense against ASU for long stretches of the game, if not for the entire 40 minutes. "We've seen zones all year." Says Evans, "We won 17 games this year, so obviously we've done a good job attacking it. We didn't attack the zone very well down there (in Tucson), and they won the game. We didn't do a good job attacking it in Washington, and we were able to escape with a win over there. We have to make shots, and we have guys capable of making shots. People talk about us being last in three-point shooting – we don't have to shoot a lot of threes, because we can get the shots we need. We're also #1 in defending three point shots, so it all balances out…they're #1 team in the country, so obviously they have a lot of weapons. You just have to do a good job defending."

The Sun Devils are riding a four game winning streak going into this monumental game. For Evans, it's not only rewarding to see his team notch all these victories, but also observe the manner in which his squad is performing these days. "I feel good about the way we're playing, whether we're winning or losing. If we're playing well and executing well, then I feel good about it. Defensively we're playing good, and we're rebounding well. I like where the basketball team is right now."

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