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January 3, 2010

Offense nowhere to be found in loss to Trojans

Los Angeles -- USC's Galen Center hasn't been kind to Arizona State, with the Sun Devils 0-3 in the building under coach Herb Sendek heading into Saturday's game against the Trojans.

One dreadful Holiday weekend showing later and that mark now stands at 0-4, and put an asterisk on the last one as it was the Sun Devils worst scoring output of the Sendek era.

The Sun Devils (10-5; 0-2) scored just 11 field goals and converted a miserable 24.4 percent of their attempts from the floor in a 47-37 loss to the Trojans (10-4; 2-0) in front of an announced crowd of 5,917. It was ASU's lowest point total in a game since Nov. 27 1991 when they lost to Minnesota in the Maui Invitational.

"We tried a number of different things (offensively), we really did," Sendek said. "At the end of the day you either put it in the basket or not and we had a hard time doing that tonight and I really do credit their defense -- it was really, really good defense."

The loss puts ASU at 0-2 in the Pac-10, where it joins Stanford and Oregon State through the first week of conference play. It's a position the Sun Devils haven't been in since Sendek's first season in Tempe, when his squad finished 2-16 in the league.

It doesn't appear the Sun Devils' prospects are as bleak this season, but generating offense is something Sendek's squad has struggled with.

"We are who we are right now," Sendek said. "We're a team that doesn't have a great margin for error. Defense has to be very critical for us."

And the Sun Devils played well on that end of the floor. Holding an opponent to 47 points in the Pac-10 is going to lead to a win the vast majority of the night, but not on this occasion.

"I think we had a hard time getting good shots, even possessions where we could have cashed in, we let it slip past our fingertips," said Sendek. "On the other side, I thought our guys played their buckets off on defense. Especially on a night when it would have been very easy to be frustrated and really lose your composure and kind of throw in the towel. For us that was a real silver lining. I thought our guys really competed and played hard on defense in a situation where it would have been very easy for that not to be the case. But both teams played outstanding defense, theirs was better."

Freshman Demetrius Walker had 11 points to lead the Sun Devils in 18 minutes of action off the bench. Walker hit two 3-pointers in the game's final minutes, when ASU needed a 10-point burst just to cross the 30-point barrier. Junior Jamelle McMillan was the only other double figure scorer, with 10 points. No other Sun Devils had more than four points, with senior Derek Glasser going 1-of-7 from the field and junior Ty Abbott going 0-of-7.

Mike Gerrity and Marcus Johnson had 12 points apiece for the Trojans, who won their eight consecutive game largely on the merits of their stellar defense.

The Sun Devils needed a 3-pointer by McMillan in the final seconds of the first half to get to a 23-16 deficit at the break. Even so, it matched ASU's lowest scoring output in a first half since March of 2007 against Stanford.

Not much changed in the second half. After Rihards Kuksiks hit a shot to cut the ASU deficit to 23-20, the Sun Devils went almost ten minutes without making a field goal. USC's inefficiency coupled with solid ASU defense kept the game relatively close through the stretch, but ASU couldn't get any closer than five points the rest of the way.


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