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ASU hosts Florida in NIT quarterfinals

March 23, 2008

The Arizona State men's basketball team will host its quarterfinal game of the National Invitational Tournament Tuesday, March 25, at Wells Fargo Arena.

ASU, 21-12 and 9-9 in the Pac-10 under second-year coach Herb Sendek, continues its season with a chance to become the nation's most improved team from one year ago as it hosts the two-time defending national champion Florida Gators at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Tickets for the game can be purchased online until 4 p.m. March 24 or at the ASU ticket office, which opens at 9 a.m. To order tickets by phone, call (480) 965-2381 or 1-888-SUN-DVLS.

The winner of the game will advance to the tournament’s semifinals April 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The Sun Devils advanced to the third round game after defeating Southern Illinois 65-51 March 20. James Harden had 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists while teammate Jeff Pendergraph flirted with the NIT record for blocked shots with eight. The victory was the Sun Devils 15th at home, a school record.

Harden had 25 points and a season-best 13 rebounds to lead the Sun Devils past Alabama State 64-53 in the first round March 18.

ASU has posted a 20-win season for just the fourth time in 27 years as the Sun Devils (picked to finish ninth in the Pac-10 preseason media poll) notched nine Pac-10 wins for just the third time in the past 13 seasons (11-7 in 2002-03 and 10-8 in 1999-2000) and went 5-4 in the second half of the Pac-10 with road wins at NCAA-bound Arizona, Washington and Oregon State and home wins vs. the NCAA-bound duo of Stanford and USC. Only UCLA and ASU beat both Stanford and USC, as ASU notched wins over RPI top-60 teams Xavier (9), Stanford (14), USC (28), Arizona (twice, 37) and Oregon (58).

ASU's Freshmen have made a league-leading and school record 93 starts, played more than 46 percent of the minutes and scored more than 52 percent of the points. Freshmen James Harden earned first-team All-Pac-10 and All-District IX USBWA honors while junior Jeff Pendergraph earned third-team accolades. Coach Herb Sendek earned the west coast media Coach of the Year accolades with his District IX USBWA honors.

Florida advanced to the game with an 82-54 win over Creighton March 21. In the first round, Florida defeated San Diego State 73-49.

Florida coach Billy Donovan and Sendek will be on opposite sidelines Tuesday, but they have been on the same sideline before in some big games. Donovan was the point guard for Providence's 1987 Final Four run with Rick Pitino as the head coach, and Sendek was an assistant. The duo also were on Rick Pitino's staff at Kentucky together.