Winning doesn't come easy

The Sun Devils are determined to make their case to be included in the NCAA tournament, and Thursday night's effort against the USC Trojans proved just that. Defeating the Trojans 59-54 in Tempe, the maroon and gold played hard until the last second to secure another conference win.

"They're one of the better teams in the conference," senior Derek classer said. "They're tough and physical. It doesn't really matter who we play, going forward. We've got UCLA then the Pac-10 tournament so we'll see how it goes."

Tonight's game a milestone for Glasser who became the first ASU player to record 1,000 points and 500 assists.

On the other hand, the matchup was not easy feat for Glasser and his teammates. While facing a very aggressive defense, the Sun Devils were able to pull together to overcome a physical USC team, after falling to them previously in Los Angeles. With a collection of big plays by their key players, the unit was able to pull off a very important team win.

"We used the shot clock a little more, we grinded them," Glasser commented. "We saw in the first half that we could get easier shots if we just stayed patient and when we did, we got them in the first half. And sometimes we rushed and coach just talked about staying focused and grinding them and getting any shot that we want. Eric (Boateng) made a huge left-handed jump hook from like 12-feet that was awesome. Rik hit some shots too; it was just a good team win tonight."

Determined to redeem themselves from a 0-2 start to conference play, the Sun Devils used their mid-season change of offense to their advantage but were faced with an even more present Trojan defense. The entire contest was a battle as the two teams fought to come out on top.

"Our offense is completely different and they guarded us a little different than they did the first time," Glasser said. "They are a tough defensive team, probably one of the best defensive teams we've played all year. Marcus Simmons and those guys…94-feet, they're in you the whole game. We knew it was going to be a tough, physical game and that's what they brought. We're just happy to come away with a win."

As the end of the regular season nears, the time for three seniors to end their Sun Devil careers follows. Saturday will likely be the last time Derek Glasser, Jerren Shipp and Eric Boateng take the court at Wells Fargo Arena, and they fully intend to go out on a positive note.

"I didn't feel that I was pressing and I don't think Eric or Jerren were pressing." Claimed Glasser. "Jerren is just playing his best basketball since he's been here, in my opinion. He is helping us out. Tonight he had some shots, he played unbelievable defense, he is really contributing in a lot of ways that don't show up on the stats sheet and that's important for this team.

A common theme has presented itself throughout the entire season for the maroon and gold. Without the presence of a standout player, the team found themselves pulling together making winning a team effort instead of relying on one player to carry the weight.

"As much as any year that I've been here, we're a team," Glasser said. "We need all five, six, seven, eight guys, whoever is on the floor has to really produce for us for us to have a chance to win. We can't just rely on one player to carry us, although Rik did a pretty good job tonight."

Rihards Kuksiks has been a fairly reliable scorer for the Sun Devils through the season. The three-point shooter briefly lost his momentum a few weeks ago but seems to have pinpointed it for this evening's contest. Leading the team with 24 points against the Trojans, Kuksiks will admit he has found himself again.

"Well, I'm just coming back out," said Kuksiks. "I was somewhere else for a couple games. I'm just coming back, my teammates are finding me and getting me the ball and I'm making my shots. I prepared the same way and just played the same way, I just played hard."

A largely effective defensive team, the Sun Devils may have met a team that can keep up. Kuksiks and his teammates found success in limiting the Trojans' second chances.

"I think we did good," admitted Kuksiks. "We played tough and we didn't let them get that many offensive rebounds and that was the difference between this game and the game before in L.A."

It is still unclear if the maroon and gold will be invited to the NCAA tournament, but the team is on the right track. Securing their 11th conference win, and looking towards the 12th one against UCLA, the Sun Devils are pulling together to help their chances of having back to back Big Dance appearances.

Glasser is naturally happy to be in this position.

"A lot of teams this weekend make or break whether they go to the tournament or not," explained Glasser, "and have to come up with some big wins to go to the tournament. I think this is why you play basketball, you want to make the NCAA tournament and we know we need to get that 12th win in conference and now that we have 11 we can focus on UCLA."


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