November 18, 2008

Sun Devils make rare early season road trip

In Arizona State's first true road trip of the 2007-2008 season, the Sun Devils fell flat on their face.

In that game, ASU headed to Lincoln Neb., to take on the Huskers in a game ASU could easily have won.

The Sun Devils jumped out to a 21-14 lead with 8:31 remaining in the first half before going ice cold.

The Sun Devils didn't score again in the first half and trailed 30-21 midway through the game en route to a 62-47 loss.

Coach Herb Sendek said his team put that loss behind it but that it did learn a lot from that experience.

This year's team is older, more experienced, and Sendek doesn't expect ASU to get flustered on the road the way it did early on last season.

"We've talked about Nebraska, but obviously it's a new year and you want to learn from every experience," he said. "We're not focused on Nebraska. That was a lifetime ago."

What the Sun Devils are focused on is their upcoming opponent Tuesday night, San Diego State.

"They're a pretty good team and did a lot of good things last season," point guard Jamelle McMillan said. "They have the whole team back so we know it's going to be tough. But we feel we're tough as well and we feel with the stuff we have in, and the way we're feeling and how we're playing that we should be okay going on the road for the first time."

One of the biggest reasons the Sun Devils feel better equipped for an early road test is the experience and confidence this team has gained over the past year.

Point guard Derek Glasser said at this point a year ago, the team relied too much on its stars: James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph.

Both players were limited to just eight points against the Huskers, and Glasser offered that as a big reason as to why ASU lost that game.

"We relied on just a few players early in the season last year," Glasser said. "James and Jeff really carried us and when they didn't get going it was hard for us to get going."

McMillan agreed with Glasser, and said that now the team can compensate if one of its stars has an off night.

He added that the spark the Sun Devils need to win can come from anybody on the court.

"There's no way you can rely on a single guy. Not even two in James and Jeff,"
McMillan said. "It has to come from all five positions. All five positions for 40 minutes.

"You saw (against Mississippi Valley State) a variety of different things from a lot of different guys. I think that is because we've improved practice-wise. Practice habits have become a lot better over the last couple weeks and guys know that this is the real deal. Last year they felt that they could come in and there wasn't much expected of them. Now they know the expectations and they know what is expected of them from their teammates and their coaches and they plan that way."

Tuesday's trip to SDSU will mark the earliest road game in ASU history.

Crash the boards

While Sendek was pleased with ASU's season opening win over Mississippi Valley State he knows there is still a lot of room for improvement.

ASU's biggest issue right now: rebounding.

The Sun Devils were out-rebounded 31-25 Friday night by a smaller MVSU team, which is something Sendek knows he has to fix.

"Part of it is awareness," he said of the rebounding struggles. "It's not one of those real complicated things, it's just attaching a level of importance to [rebounding] and then just having the constitution to consistently go get the ball.

"Everybody has ownership in rebounding. It's a five-man proposition. Four guys can block out and do what they are supposed to do and it just takes one guy to have his guard down and the other guy gets the ball."

Glasser said that Friday, MVSU just wanted the rebounds more and they gave more effort to come down with the ball.

"They want to call them 50-50 plays where either we can or they can get the ball and they got more of those than we did in the game," he said. "But that's going to change."

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