Game typical of season
LOS ANGELES – When the clock struck midnight at Staples Center, Cinderella was nowhere to be found, just a basketball team preparing to ride its carriage into the offseason.
Arizona State can travel lightly today. As they have all season, the Sun Devils left everything they had inside this building Wednesday night.
ASU’s 59-51 loss to Washington in the opening round of the Pacific Life Pac-10 Basketball Tournament was a reflection of the Sun Devils’ season. They fought hard but didn’t have the talent to overcome their shortcomings
This has been a wonderful experience for me,” said ASU coach Herb Sendek, who finishes his first season 8-22 overall. “I really enjoyed my relationships and my experience with this group. They’ve enriched me and I greatly enjoyed being part of this ASU community.”
The game was played to a backdrop of wishful thinking. In Sendek’s first year at North Carolina State, the Wolfpack finished 4-12 in the Atlantic Coast Conference yet advanced to the ACC title game.
ASU finishes had similar aspirations for this team, which might explain the decent representation of fans at the game, particularly if you consider the late tipoff and ASU’s 2-16 conference record. Among the followers was several members of Artesia High School, including highly touted recruit James Harden. The Sun Devils practiced at Artesia Wednesday morning.
There they spoke of the importance of rebounding. Yet at night they couldn’t overcome the Huskies’ inside presence. Led by 7-foot Spencer Hawes and 6-7 Jon Brockman, Washington outrebounded ASU, 39-28.
“Those guys are so athletic, so physical,” Sun Devils guard Derek Glasser said.
It didn’t seem that way at first.
The Sun Devils set the early tone when Serge Angounou sank a three-point basket just 21 seconds in to the game and ASU plowed through the first 10 minutes with a swagger. With 8:59 to go, the Sun Devils led 21-10. The Huskies were frustrated.
“It’s hard not to get down on yourself when you’re down by 11,” Brockman said.
The vibe changed quickly. A missed three-pointer and turnover by Angounou cracked open Washington’s emotional door just enough to let the Huskies start pecking away at the lead.
They did. With 3:19 remaining, Washington tied the game at 24 and with 2:31 left in the first half, it took its first lead of the night. By halftime, the Huskies were ahead 32-27.
The Sun Devils weren’t rattled. ASU went on a 15-6 run to start the second half and Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar was livid.
“We’re about to go home,” he said while slamming a playbook to the floor.
“It worked and Washington soon went on an 18-6 run. The Huskies will meet Washington State tonight.
The Sun Devils were down but not out.
“I think fans will have a lot to be excited about next season,” Glasser said. “We’ve got a top recruiting class coming in and we’ll be a totally different team. I think we’ll surprise a lot of people.’
The Sun Devils have reason to be optimistic in large part because of Sendek. A good coach can have a powerful impact on a struggling program.
Consider this: The year before Kelvin Sampson was honored as Pac-10 Coach of the Year in the 1990-91 season, his Washington State team went 1-17 and lost 17 straight.
Former Stanford coach Mike Montgomery was 2-16 in the Pac-10 in his seventh season (1992-93). Yet from 1994-95 to 2003-04, his Cardinal team posted 10 straight NCAA Tournament appearances and 20-victory seasons. In 1999, he was the Pac-10 coach of the year.
Heck, George Raveling was 11-43 in conference play during his first three seasons at USC but rebounded nicely and landed coach of the year honor in 1991-92.
After ending their season Wednesday night, the Sun Devils are ready to start talking about the future.