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Arizona State rallies late to defeat San Diego State

November 18, 2008

James Harden had a virus and his No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils simply looked sick for most of their game against scrappy San Diego State.

Telling himself to grind it out, Harden scored 18 points and helped the Sun Devils take control late in a 59-52 victory over the Aztecs on Tuesday night.

After trailing most of the game, the Sun Devils (2-0) made three straight 3-pointers to go ahead for good. Rihards Kuksiks' long shot tied it at 44 with 6:04 left before Harden hit a 3 to give ASU just its second lead, 47-44. Kuksiks hit another shot from behind the arc for a 50-44 lead.

"We played bad the whole game, but in that five minutes we still had a chance to win, so we took the chance that we had," Harden said.

"We shouldn't have put ourselves in the situation in the first place but we'll be better next game."

The Sun Devils struggled early in each half.

"We took a punch right between the eyes and then we took a number of body blows," coach Herb Sendek said. "But to our guys' credit, they just kept hanging tough and found a way to win. It was nothing fancy, just a good, old-fashioned gut-check win."

ASU outscored San Diego State 18-8 over the last 6:27, including five free throws down the stretch by Derek Glasser.

The Sun Devils took only 13 shots in the second half, making 9 of them - including 5 3-pointers.

Kyle Spain scored 17 points for the Aztecs (1-1), who shot just 35.3 percent from the field.

San Diego State was trying for its third straight home upset of a ranked team.

"We had our chances," Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said. "We just didn't make enough plays and they did make plays.

"This was a good team we played," Fisher added. "It's a team that didn't panic when we got an early lead. And they made shots that were contested. They found ways late in the shot clock to either get to the free throw line or get a foul or run an extra 35 seconds. And the thought I have is we'll be better for the experience."

The Aztecs jumped to an 11-point lead midway through the first half and led 24-23 at halftime. ASU didn't get its first lead until just less than a minute into the second half, when Jeff Pendergraph made it 25-24 with a jump-hook from the baseline.

After Billy White answered with a three-point play for SDSU, Harden was whistled for a technical foul for rolling the ball away after the Sun Devils lost it out of bounds. Spain made both free throws and Richie Williams made a shot from the key on the ensuing possession to give the Aztecs a 31-25 lead.

SDSU pushed its lead to eight points as the Sun Devils went cold, but a 3-pointer by Taylor Rohde got ASU going again.

Spain said the Aztecs were excited to be hosting a Top 15 team.

"I thought we played fairly well up to five minutes left," he said. "They made big shots and we didn't capitalize on our opportunities and missed a lot of free throws and layups, and that defeated us."

ASU trailed 41-37 when Harden committed his fourth foul with 8:15 left and headed to the bench with 10 points. He came back in a minute later and helped the Sun Devils grab the lead.

Ty Abbott scored 13 points and Kuksiks had 10 for the Sun Devils.

White added 12 points for the Aztecs.