24th-ranked Sun Devils looking to end 2-game skid Print
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Tuesday, 03 February 2009 23:03
NCAAB Headline News


 TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -Arizona State forward Jeff Pendergraph could sense his senior season slipping away in back-to-back home losses to Washington State and Washington last weekend.
So Pendergraph, always an emotional leader, pulled a few teammates aside and offered a mix of counsel and criticism.
``It hit me - I have like five, six weeks left of college basketball,'' Pendergraph said before practice on Tuesday. ``I'm not going to wait until after the season to be like, 'Dang, we coulda, shoulda, woulda.' I don't want to be one of those guys on one of those teams. I want to be a guy like, 'Hey, my senior year we kicked everybody's butt.'''
The Sun Devils dropped 10 slots, to No. 24, in this week's Associated Press Top 25. Arizona State (16-5, 5-4 Pac-10) still looks like a lock for the NCAA tournament, but after back-to-back home losses to the Washington schools, the fourth-place Sun Devils are scrambling to stay in the top half of the brutally competitive Pac-10.
big weekend for us.''
The losses were all the more puzzling because they came after gritty wins at Pauley Pavilion and McKale Center, haunted places for ASU over the years.
``It's been a roller coaster,'' said James Harden, who leads the Pac-10 with 21.9 points per game.
The Pac-10 schedule has given Arizona State a chance to bounce back quickly. The Sun Devils visit Oregon (6-15, 0-9) on Thursday night and then take on improving Oregon State (10-10, 4-5) in Corvallis on Saturday.
The Sun Devils routed the Beavers 69-38 on Jan. 8 in Tempe and drubbed the Ducks 76-58 two nights later.
Last year, the Beavers became the first team to go winless in Pac-10 play since the conference expanded to an 18-game schedule in 1978-79. The Ducks are threatening to duplicate that feat this year, but coach Herb Sendek said he's not taking the trip to Eugene for granted.
``You don't for one second think Oregon's capable of beating any team ... So let's stop that foolishness,'' Sendek said.
With a victory at Eugene, the Sun Devils would win three straight Pac-10 road games for the first time since 1995-96.
Facing Oregon might be all the Sun Devils need to cure their recent shooting woes. The Ducks rank last in Pac-10 field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot 51.3 percent.
in recent weeks. In the loss to Washington State, they shot 37 percent from the field and 28 percent from 3-point range; against Washington they shot 41 percent from the floor and 26 percent from beyond the arc.
With each missed shot last weekend, Pendergraph sensed that his teammates were getting down on themselves and perhaps carrying their shooting woes to the other end of the floor, where it affected their defense and rebounding.
Pendergraph said he spoke to some teammates privately, urging them to shrug off their shooting problems and keep working hard in other areas.
``You could tell stuff was bothering guys, and it was carrying over from offense to defense,'' Pendergraph said. ``I'm like, 'Let it go. Don't let it affect other parts of your game that have nothing to do with whether your shot goes in or not.'''
Sendek had a different way of reaching his struggling team. He pushed the players through an energetic practice on Monday, their first meeting since an 84-71 loss to the Huskies on Saturday afternoon.
``It was intense,'' Pendergraph said. ``There was a lot of running.''
Sendek doesn't attribute the Sun Devils' scoring woes to midseason fatigue. But Pendergraph said it might be a factor.
``The last couple of games, it seemed like guys were really tired,'' Pendergraph said. ``Guys were playing slow.''
 

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