Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Arizona State at Arizona

On paper, this looked bleak for Arizona State. They had lost 23 of the last 24 games to the Lute Olson Meercats before the start of this season. Arizona was coming off a woodshed beating at Pauley and in theory they should have been primed to punish the next opponent.

And that's how it started, with a 22-6 lead, with Jerryd Bayless hitting just about everything he threw up. At that point, Herb "Mensa" Sendek took a couple of strategic time outs and was able to inspire his team to tighten up the defense and stay patient on offense.

With Bayless the only Zona player able to score, and Jordan Hill reverting to the quick two first half fouls "strategy", Budinger (who looked like he belonged to a beach volleyball team last night) and J-Mac were unable to provide some offense. The value of Nic "Hoops" Wise was evident in game #1 since his season-ending (?) surgery. With the Michigan kid transferring back to Michigan, Arizona was a bit thin on the back-court.

The game was played like a Big Ten game, except without the intensity, which is a bit strange, since this is supposed to be a hated and heated rivarly ;-)

The box score looked like an AAU game, with Bayless and Pendergraph (not to be confused with GoneZaga's Pendergraft) both getting career highs above the high 30s.

With Arizona players not named Bayless unable to score, and unable to defend Sendek's half court offense, ASU slowly but steadily got back in the game, and then took the reigns, and finished off with a much needed victory.

This is even more important for Sendek in the eyes of Sun Devils fans, as the ASU won only 1 out of the previous 24 games against Arizona. Sendek has managed to sweep Arizona twice this season.

Arizona fans will point out that in game #1 Bayless DNP, and in this game, Nic Wise DNP due to injuries. But Arizona State fans will point out that ASU was playing with super-frosh James Harden as a shadow of his regular self due to a bad case of the flu. But Harden was able to play and make enough plays to allow his teammates to win the game.

Another item that will cheer ASU fans was the determination and energy of Pendergraph on both sides of the floor. If he plays like that every game, and Harden plays to his usual self when he recovers from the flu, the team could make an NCAA run!

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