ASU racks up wins early in Pac-10 season

<p>After a little more than two months since the college basketball season began, the ASU men’s basketball team has a lot to look forward to in the new year.</p><separator></separator><p>The team is on an upswing at 13-2 overall, and 3-0 in Pac-10 play for just the third time in its 30 years of Pac-10 play (including the first time since 1987-1988). ASU opened the 1987-1988 conference slate with a 4-0 record and also went 6-0 to start the 1979-1980 season.</p><separator></separator><p>The winning record includes a 64-59 victory over archrival Arizona Jan. 9 in Tempe. The game marked the first time in 12 games – and just the second time in the last 25 – that ASU has defeated the Wildcats. View a <a href="">photo gallery</a> of the game. </p><separator></separator><p>“That game could have gone either way, a shot here, a play there,” says ASU Coach Herb Sendek. “We were fortunate to win it. But I thought both teams played with tremendous heart, a lot of guts. It wasn’t necessarily artistic. Probably both teams missed some shots that they normally make, but there was a lot of heart out there tonight by both teams. That was a fiercely contested college basketball game.”</p><separator></separator><p>ASU is gearing up for its first Pac-10 road trip of the season, with games at California Jan. 17 and at Stanford Jan. 19.</p><separator></separator><p>“You can say whatever you want,” says junior forward Jeff Pendergraph. “You can think it’s a fluke, or you can think that we’ve gotten lucky, or whatever. But you guys can’t deny that we’re tough. When other teams play us, they’re in for a battle.”</p><separator></separator><p>Although the season is still young, ASU has made a strong turnaround from its 8-22 record in 2006-2007.</p><separator></separator><p>Among the highlights of the season:</p><separator></separator><p>• After starting 6-19 last year, ASU is 15-5 in its past 20 games.</p><separator></separator><p>• ASU is 11-0 at home this year after going 7-11 (.389) last year in Tempe. In the previous four seasons, ASU was 9-27 (.250) in Pac-10 home games but is 3-0 this year.</p><separator></separator><p>• Half of ASU’s 30 games last year were decided by six points or less, and ASU was 3-12. It is 3-0 in those games this year.</p><separator></separator><p>• In 45 games under Sendek, ASU is giving up just 60.2 points per game.</p><separator></separator><p>• ASU held Oregon (83.4 points per game), Oregon State (62.9 points per game) and Arizona (74.6 points per game) to an average of 55.3 points per game in its first three Pac-10 contests.</p><separator></separator><p>Sendek emphasizes that, even with the winning record, the team still has plenty of room for improvement.</p><separator></separator><p>“To be honest, I would give us a C-plus,” he says. “We’re there, but we still have so much more room to grow. We haven’t even peaked yet. Our potential is still way up there. We have a lot of room to grow, and we’ve still got a lot of ground to cover if we want to be the defensive team that we need to be, that we’re capable of being.”</p><separator></separator><p>The team is led by Pendergraph and freshman guard James Harden, the Pac-10’s youngest player.</p><separator></separator><p>Harden leads the leads the team in scoring (18.2 points per game), steals (27) and minutes per game (31.9). Harden was named the Pac-10 men’s basketball player of the week for Dec. 31-Jan. 6.</p><separator></separator><p>Another freshman on the team, Ty Abbott, earned player-of-the-week honors Dec. 17.</p>