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January 31, 2009
Although their matchup as two ranked teams has lost some of its luster with both coming off losses, there is still plenty left on the line for Washington and Arizona State as the two meet Saturday in Tempe for a critical Pacific-10 showdown.
The No. 23 Huskies (15-5, 6-2) are tied with No. 17 UCLA atop the Pac-10, one game ahead of the No. 14 Sun Devils (16-4, 5-3). Both teams are coming off losses, however, and Washington in particular would likely need a win to have any chance of staying in the Top 25.
"We have to learn from our performance last night, move on and focus on getting back on track against a very dangerous Arizona State team," coach Lorenzo Romar told the Huskies' official Web site after a 106-97 loss to Arizona on Thursday. "ASU was disappointed after their loss to Washington State last night so we are both going to have a little extra incentive tomorrow."
The Sun Devils are especially eager to snap their recent offensive struggles in conference. They shot 37.3 percent in a 65-55 loss to Washington State on Thursday, giving them a split of their last four games.
Arizona State had scored 75.3 points per game prior to the start of Pac-10 play, but it has averaged 54.5 in its last four games. The Sun Devils have shot 37.3 percent in those four games - well off their season mark of 48.9 percent.
"Nobody scores very many against them," coach Herb Sendek said of the Cougars. "But when you have open looks, from our perspective, you have to knock them down and we haven't really shot the ball at all since the Oregon weekend (Jan. 8-10)."
Jeff Pendergraph, who is Arizona State's second-leading scorer at 13.3 points per game, will be looking to bounce back after being held to eight on 3-of-8 shooting against Washington State. James Harden had 26 points but was just 8-of-20 (40.0 percent) from the field. Harden, the Pac-10's leading scorer at 22.2 points per game, is shooting 52.8 percent.
The offense will try to get back on track against a Washington team that gave up more than 100 points for the first time in nearly five years on Thursday.
The Huskies were outscored 41-13 at the free-throw line and allowed the Wildcats to shoot 51.9 percent. It was the first time an opponent scored more than 100 on the Huskies since a 102-100 loss to UAB in the first round of the 2004 NCAA tournament.
"We had to result to fouling and pressing and trapping ... because they were very aggressive and we couldn't guard them," Romar said. "This is definitely a step back in terms of how we have been playing. We could not defend well."
Washington has won five consecutive games at Arizona State, but the Sun Devils snapped an 11-game overall losing streak to the Huskies with a 77-63 victory in the most recent meeting on Feb. 23.