Palo Alto,Ca - James Harden and Arizona State have been here before. They'd like a different ending this time.
On Friday, the star sophomore leads the 17th-ranked Sun Devils into Maples Pavilion, where they'll open Pac-10 play against unbeaten Stanford.
Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made the Stanford Pk point spread favorites for Wednesday’s game against the Arizona St. Current College Basketball Public Betting Information shows that 51% of more than 197 bets for this game have been placed on the Stanford Pk.
Arizona State (11-1) started fast last season, opening 14-2 with a 4-0 conference record. However, a 67-52 defeat at Stanford on Jan. 19 triggered a five-game losing streak the Sun Devils could not overcome, as they finished 9-9 in a rigorous Pac-10 and missed the NCAA tournament.
The 6-foot-4 Harden has turned that disappointment into drive this season, averaging 23.8 points while shooting 57.8 percent - 46.2 percent (24-for-52) from 3-point range - during a mediocre non-conference schedule. He had 24 points in Monday's 84-47 rout of Central Connecticut State.
"We did some pretty good things today,'' said Harden, the Pac-10's leading scorer who had 16 points in the loss at Maples last season. "Now it's time for Pac-10. It's a tough game every game, no matter who it is.''
The Sun Devils have done an excellent job sharing the ball the last two games, totaling 48 assists on their 60 field goals after getting just 27 assists in one-point wins over IUPUI and BYU. That ball movement has led to easy shots for Harden and his teammates, with small forward Rihards Kuksiks going 8-for-9 from 3-point range over the last two wins, and second-leading scorer Jeff Pendergraph (12.8 points per game) going 10-for-13 overall.
"It starts with James," Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. "He's always so unselfish, setting guys up. We've played better together the last two games. It's been fun basketball to watch. It's been unselfish good basketball to watch."
First-year Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins is no stranger to tough conference games after sitting next to Mike Krzyzewski as a long-time assistant at Duke, and he's brought the Cardinal (10-0) into Pac-10 play unbeaten after a 69-55 win over Hartford on Tuesday.
Mitch Johnson had 14 points and eight assists for the Cardinal, who are off to their best start since winning their first 26 games of the 2003-04 season. Stanford has also benefited from a soft non-conference schedule, with their biggest wins coming at home against Texas Tech and Northwestern.
The three seniors who helped lead Stanford to a regional semifinal appearance in last season's NCAA tournament - Anthony Goods, Lawrence Hill and Mitch Johnson - have combined to average 39.3 points, 13.0 rebounds and 9.9 assists. Goods leads the team with 18.4 points per game and is shooting 41.9 percent (26-for-62) from beyond the arc.
Arizona State snapped a five-game losing streak to Stanford with a 72-68 overtime victory Feb. 14 in the most recent meeting, but the Cardinal lead the series 37-27. The Sun Devils have lost three straight at Maples Pavilion since an 81-69 win Jan. 6, 2005.
Posted: 1/2/09 1:01AM ET