Huskies open Pac-10 play Thursday

Even though the Arizona State Sun Devils will open up Pac-10 play in Seattle without Ike Diogu as a familiar face, don't expect the 'Devils' muscle to somehow diminish. A long-standing hallmark of Rob Evans-coached teams, ASU will scrap, fight and work for every point they put up on the scoreboard. It should be a welcome match for a Washington hoops team looking to jump-start their conference championship hopes.

"He has been the toughest guy to deal with since Shareef Abdur-Raheem (California) was a freshman," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said of Diogu. "And he was a load."

But Diogu has matriculated to the NBA, much to the relief of the rest of the Pac-10. Now it takes Arizona State (6-3) two players to account for what Diogu averaged in points (22.6) and rebounds (9.8) by himself. But while points per game are down so far this year, ASU's defense has stepped up, giving up seven points per game less than the 'Devils' 2004-2005 team.

Expect to see more 'team' in the group wearing red and gold Thursday as they try and tackle Washington's 31-game home winning streak. And you never know, they might take 'tackle' literally. In the past two years, there's only one game out of the five played between Arizona State and Washington that didn't have at least one technical foul called.

"I know that every time in the three years we have played Arizona State, it has been a physical war," Romar said. "There have been some standoffs, some hard fouls, and a little bit of jawing back and forth. They don't back down at all and we've never backed down. I know I would expect a physical, hard-fought game. They are going to play with a lot of intensity. That's how they've played every time we've played them. Whether it'll be up-tempo or not, I'm not sure. But they are going to come after us.

"We try to play with a lot of intensity, and they try to play with a lot of intensity. When you have two teams that play that way, quite naturally that's how it's going to turn out."

Romar expects his guys to be up to the challenge, especially since it's the beginning of conference play. "We've never backed down from a good scrap," he added.

So why is it that when the Dawgs and Devils get together, sparks fly? "A lot of teams in our conference play a pack-it-in, containment, very solid defense," Romar said. "Arizona State comes out and gets you. That's how they've been in the past.

"If we were in the same league with UAB, those games would be intense, physical games. Scrappy games."

So while the Huskies will be seeing a much different, Diogu-less, Devils team, ASU can easily say the same thing. Gone is the guard-oriented play centered around Nate Robinson, Will Conroy and Tre Simmons. Now is the time for featured freshmen Justin Dentmon and Jon Brockman to take what they've learned through the first ten games and apply those lessons now.

"We expect them to compete and do business as usual," Romar said when asked for the expectations on the newcomers. "They make mistakes. They might forget what we're doing conceptually because they just got here, but in terms of the intensity going up and the crowds being there - they've been through a lot. Granted, they haven't played at Arizona when it's a sell-out crowd or at The Pit when it's a sell-out crowd, but we expect them to do really well and to compete at a high level."

Romar admits that, with the experience level where it currently rests, he just doesn't know how this team will react to the different things thrown at them. "Last year, we could call a play we hadn't run all year but we ran it two years ago and our guys knew it," he said. "The situation would call for it, so we'd bring plays out of the archives. That's not the case with this year's team.

"We're still a work in progress."

And instead of the guys from down south wanting to pack it in tight and play bruise-ball in the paint, coach Evans and his crew are getting the bulk of their points from outside - mostly coming from a guy named Kruger. And another guy named Krueger.

Kruger and Krueger? Sounds like a failed sitcom.

"They are the meat and potatoes of that team, when it comes to scoring," Romar said of Kevin Kruger - son of famed hoops coach Lon Kruger - and Bryson Krueger. Combined, the brothers Kru(e)ger are accounting for 30 of ASU's 73 points per game. They have taken 99 of the Sun Devils' 120 3-point attempts.

If Evans wants to try and balance out the scoring, he'll have to rely on one mainstay - junior forward Serge Angounou - and freshman Jeff Pendergraph to get some points in the paint.

But the old adage certainly applies when it comes to conference action - the more things change, the more things stay the same. "Teams are so familiar with you," Romar said about the rigors of league play. "You talk about freshmen forgetting what to do? Sometimes, the other team will tell them what to do. They scout us and know where we're going to go."

Romar isn't concerned with what Evans will throw at his team - at least not yet. He's more worried about what his guys can control. "You have to be prepared for it all," he said, matter-of-factly.

With ASU on the docket, that sounds like the proper game plan.
Notes:
Injury update: "There are some nicks and bruises, but with the exception of Harvey Perry, we're all healthy," said Romar, who also added that Perry was scheduled to be examined Wednesday, and at that time hoped that the frosh guard could start rehabilitation on a lower-back injury. "We'd like to see him," he added.

Jensen's minutes: Mike Jensen played 13 minutes against Lehigh, but Romar wouldn't speculate on how that game would affect how many minutes the senior forward would see against Arizona State. Jensen is still returning from shoulder surgery. "He's not in great, great condition, but he played 13 minutes the other night and functioned pretty well in those 13 minutes," Romar said, adding that the flow of the game would dictate playing time.

Back to the start: Justin Dentmon, who didn't start against Lehigh, will start against Arizona State. The Lehigh game was the first game the frosh from Carbondale, Ill had not started all season. "We recruited him to be an impact player his freshman year," Romar said of Dentmon. "He's embraced that opportunity and has done well. That's been very gratifying to see."

Dawgman.com Top Stories