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February 14, 2010

Sun Devils get season sweep of Oregon schools

For much of the first half, Arizona State coach Herb Sendek wasn't even sure his team was playing the right sport.

The Sun Devils had 10 turnovers by the game's 11:26 mark -- they are averaging 11.9 per game -- and trailed 12-6 before finding their stride defensively and from the 3-point line to earn a season sweep of the Oregon schools with a 61-51 win in front of 7,618 at Wells Fargo Arena Saturday.

"We were having a hard time passing and catching," Sendek said. "It just seemed like there was a sequence there for three or four passes in a row we were trying to catch (famous knuckleball pitcher) Phil Niekro. We just had a hard time passing and catching."

The win keeps ASU (18-8; 8-5 in the Pac-10) a game behind Cal in the race for the Pac-10 crown, with just five games remaining for both teams.

ASU turned the ball over just five times the rest of the game, and converted 9-of-19 3-pointers after going 1-of-10 to start the contest.

Junior Ty Abbott started 1-of-6 from behind the arc before making 4-of-7 in the second half and he led ASU with 19 points and five assists. Classmate Rihards Kuksiks made 3-of-9 3-pointers and had 12 points.

The Sun Devils opened the second half with a 15-3 run to turn what started as a 26-26 tie into a 41-32 advantage.

Oregon (12-12; 4-8) would eventually trim its deficit to six points, 53-47, with 3:18 remaining in the game, but that was as close as it would get.

Malcolm Armstead led the Ducks with 16 points and Matthew Humphrey had 11 in the loss. Star guard Tajuan Porter made just 1-of-11 shots from the field on the afternoon.

The tide began to turn in ASU's following a questionable charge call on Oregon's Michael Dunigan that negated a basket which would have put the Ducks up 11 points with 4:01 to play in the first half.

Instead, the Sun Devils went on an 11-2 run capped on a Rihards Kuksiks 3-pointer to beat the halftime buzzer and tie the game 26-26.

"[The Kuksiks shot to end the half] was big but the bigger one was the block/charge because you're up nine, that goes and you're up 11 (if it was called differently) and then crowd comes in," Kent said. "That was huge where the crowd came up and it took us from being in a great situation."

Sendek didn't expect his team had a shot to bring the score even before intermission but he was pleased that it unfolded as it did.

"It was big. We just talked about chipping away," Sendek said. "We were down nine and we had a timeout and we said, 'If we can get this to six by halftime.' Then all of a sudden it was four and then we said, 'Let's get greedy, let's see if we can get it tied by halftime' and Rik hit the big corner [3-pointer] to do just that."


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