January 18, 2008

ASU shows it can win big Pac-10 game on the road

BERKELERY - Calif., The No. 25 ranked ASU men's basketball team picked up a much needed first road win of the season, with an impressive 99-90 double overtime victory over the California Golden Bears.

The Sun Devils earned their fourth consecutive conference win thanks to the scoring contributions of two freshmen in the backcourt and a veteran on the low block. The trio of James Harden, Ty Abbott and Jeff Pendergraph lit up Haas Pavilion for a total of 78 points in a game that could easily have been replayed heavily on ESPN Classic - that is only if the game was televised.

"It was a hard fought game," ASU head coach Herb Sendek said. "Both teams played at a high level offensively."

Luckily for ASU, the most productive player on the court in late game situations, "Big Game" Harden wears Maroon and Gold. He lived up to his budding reputation, leading the Sun Devils with 27 points, on only 14 field goal attempts.

Harden took over the game, mesmerizing the crowd with an array of clutch shots down the stretch.

Whether it was taking his defender off the dribble to the basket then having to finish amongst the giants in the paint, or hitting clutch shots from long distance, Harden carried ASU late with 23 of his points coming in the second half and overtime periods.

"James has the capacity to put the first half or the last play or whatever that's happened behind him - that's a real gift that he has," Sendek said.

Harden scored the first five points in double overtime, instantly adding to his reputation of being a clutch performer, and eventually helping the Sun Devils (14-2, 4-0) outlast the Bears (11-5, 2-3).

When he wasn't taking big shots, Harden was creating open looks for others.

Mainly, one of ASU's other freshmen guards, Abbott.

Abbott, made numerous clutch 3-pointers including, one at the end of regulation, one at the end of the first overtime, and two in the second overtime. He finished the game with 25 points on 7-of-16 shooting from behind the three-point line.

"We needed some key shots in crucial situations and he [Abbott] just stepped up time and time again," Sendek said.

Abbott's first big 3-pointer tied the game with six seconds remaining in regulation.

The Sun Devils were fortunate to have a shot at tying the game, when Cal sophomore forward Ryan Anderson missed one of two free throws that could have pushed the Cal lead to four with 35 seconds left.

Anderson led all scorers with 32 points on 9-of-23 shooting from the field and grabbed 15 rebounds, but could not convert from the charity stripe late in the game.

"Their offense did a terrific job attacking us, plus Ryan Anderson is a terrific player," Sendek said.

Anderson had little trouble out-working the smaller Sun Devils guarding him on the post, as he put up most of his points from close range or at the foul line.

Not to be outdone, ASU's dominant junior post player, Pendergraph, also had success scoring inside the paint.

Guarded primarily by Cal center DeVon Hardin, Pendergraph had an impressive performance. He finished with 26 points, with most of his baskets coming early in the game, before Harden took over.

In the first overtime, neither team outplayed the other, as both missed open shots and turned the ball over with poor passing. Cal ended up with the last shot, but mismanaged their possession and only could dial up a desperation launch at the rim.

But in the second overtime, ASU came out more aggressive, refusing to rely on the three point shot.

Harden drove to the basket, scoring back-to-back buckets, allowing ASU to jump out in front.

The Sun Devils played so hard in the final five minutes, they made their chances happen for themselves.

Ty Abbott had a great hustle play, coming out of nowhere to save a possession by throwing a loose ball at a Cal player. The fresh 35-second shot clock allowed ASU more time to eat away the clock.

"We have to make hustle plays on the road to win games that was a good example," ASU sophomore forward Jerren Shipp said.

Not only did they burn clock, they also got an extremely fortunate bounce. As Harden drove to the basket, he lost the ball which somehow ended up in the arms of Derek Glasser on the baseline. Glasser instantly threw the ball out to Abbott, who nailed down a 3-point dagger.

Abbott's timely shot put the Sun Devils up 95-88 with a minute left.

After a few Harden free throws, Cal elected not to foul.

"It was a very big win for us and we're happy get it," Shipp said. "We showed a lot of toughness."

ASU shot a blistering 57.6 percent from the field, and out-rebounded Cal 36-28.

Both stats should help the Sun Devils feel confident heading into Saturday's big game against Stanford.

The Cardinal feature two talented seven footers in Brook and Robin Lopez, and ASU may be forced to adjust their normal lineup in order to compete on the glass.

Sendek said he would consider playing sophomore Eric Boateng along with Pendergraph, depending on the circumstance, but he was pleased with the limited amount of time he played them together against Cal.

"Stanford is clearly one of the top teams in the country and we're going to have to refuel our tanks to be ready to go," he said.

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!