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Men's hoops game notes for Xavier contest Saturday

December 12, 2007

The Arizona State's men's hoops team, under second-year coach Herb Sendek, plays host to No. 17 Xavier (7-1) on Saturday, Dec. 15, at 2 p.m. MT on FSN and KTAR 620 AM in Phoenix. ASU has been starting three freshmen as its roster has an interesting mix. It includes two McDonald's All-Americans making their Sun Devil debuts this year, one senior, five freshmen, three sophomores who played 87.3 minutes per game (with Pac-10 leading 69 freshmen starts) and one of college hoops rising players in 6-9 junior Jeff Pendergraph. A preseason Wooden Award Top-50 candidate, Pendergraph led the team in scoring (12.1) and rebounding (9.1) last year, as his rebounding average matched the second-best mark by a Sun Devil in the past 26 seasons. With seven of the Sun Devil games being margins of at least 15 points, he is averaging just 24.3 minutes per game but already has 11 blocks and is shooting .615 from the field and .786 from the free throw line. His best outing this year was a 25-point, 10-board scene stealer against LSU's long front line in the third game of Maui Invitational.

Coach Sendek has 30 wins against ranked teams in his career, including 14 wins over top-10 teams and eight over top-five teams. He notched his first at ASU last year in the final chance of the year when ASU topped No. 22 USC 68-58 on Feb. 18, 2007...Xavier is coached by former Herb Sendek assistant Sean Miller, who was on Coach Sendek's staff at Miami (Ohio) and NC State...a good history note is Xavier and ASU will play on Ned Wulk Court, as Coach Wulk led ASU to a 406-272 (.599) mark in his 25 years (1958-82) and prior to those years he was Xavier's head coach, as he notched a 89-70 (.560) record as the main Musketeer from 1951-57, and ranks sixth in wins at XU.

ASU freshmen accounted for 69 of 150 starts in Herb Sendek's rookie 30-game season. Through eight games, the numbers have jumped to 93 out of 190 starts in his 38-game tenure with three freshmen starting each game. That means in his two years, ASU's starting lineup has had freshmen make 48.9 percent of the starts. Sophomores have made 40 starts (.211), juniors 25 (.132) and seniors 32 (.168). While ASU's freshmen have made 93 starts in the past two seasons, Xavier has not had a freshman start one game.

ASU has hosted the likes of Final Four-bound Kansas in 1990-91, Final-Four bound Oklahoma State in 1994-95, Texas, Georgia, Kerry Kittles-led Villanova, Kenny Thomas-led New Mexico, BYU, 2006 defending Big Ten Tournament champ Iowa and Louisville since 1990, but No. 17 Xavier is the highest ranked non-conference foe to visit ASU since No. 14 ASU beat No. 7 Ohio State 71-58 on Dec. 20, 1980. Xavier also is the first non-conference ranked foe to visit Tempe since No. 18 UTEP topped ASU 60-55 on Dec. 18, 1983.

Herb Sendek has six former assistants who are currently D-I head coaches: Jim Christian, Kent State, Miami Assistant (1994-96); Charlie Coles, Miami (Ohio), Miami Assistant (1994-96); Larry Hunter, Western Carolina, NC State Assistant (2001-05); Ron Hunter, IUPUI, Miami Assistant (1993-94); Thad Matta, Ohio State, Miami Assistant (1994-95) and Sean Miller, Xavier, Miami (1994-96) and NC State Assistant (1996-2000). Coles, Miller and Matta all led their teams to the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

ASU is shooting .773 from the free throw line (102-of-132), which leads the Pac-10 and is 11th in the nation as James Harden already is 35-of-41 (.854). Each of the six Sun Devils averaging more than 18 minutes are shooting at least 75 percent. In his 10 seasons at NC State, Coach Sendek's teams led the ACC four times in FT percentage (including three straight seasons, 2002-04). In 2004 NC State led the nation and set the ACC record by shooting .799 from the charity stripe. While at NC State, his squads shot 71.3 percent, as his poorest FT shooting team was his first year (1996-97/.649).

Xavier and ASU have met twice, with the Sun Devils winning 71-67 in Tempe on Dec. 8, 1984, and the Musketeers winning last year's game 76-58 on Dec. 16, 2006, in Cincinnati. In last year's game, Xavier's 76 points was the most the Sun Devils gave up all year as the Musketeers went 15-of-16 (.938) from the free throw line in the second half to clinch the win. ASU did not score a field goal in the final 6:43, as a 61-56 XU lead at the 6:06 mark grew to the game's largest margin at the final buzzer. ASU matched a season-high with 11 steals but was just 8-of-14 (.571) from the foul line in the second half.

Freshmen James Harden, Ty Abbott and Jamelle McMillan started against Illinois on Nov. 19, the first time in school history that three freshmen started the opener...eight players are averaging at least 17 minutes per game, as freshmen and sophomores make up more than 160 minutes per game...Ty Abbott already has nailed 18 three-pointers on the year...after averaging 58.5 points per game last year, ASU scored 54 in the first half against Florida Gulf Coast on Nov. 28. The 54 first-half points (most since 58-30 lead against USC on Feb. 13, 2003) was more than it scored in 10 games last year...ASU outrebounded Cal Poly by 29 on Nov. 26 (52-23), its best rebounding margin since a 49-19 output vs. American-Puerto Rico on Nov. 26, 1997...ASU also held Cal Poly to 14-of-55 (.255) from the floor, its best defensive effort since Dec. 2, 2000, when it held eventual NCAA Tournament bound BYU to 15-of-59 (.254), then held Delaware State to .208 shooting (.11-of-53)...Jeff Pendergraph is shooting .615 from the field...Christian Polk is shooting 80.4 percent from the foul line in his 38-game career (41-of-51)...Jeff Pendergraph led the team in charges taken with 19 last year...Derek Glasser is 14-of-26 (.538) from the floor this year.

James Harden UPDATE
Freshman James Harden has been all that was advertised early in the year. The first McDonald's All-American to sign with ASU out of high school since 1984 (it was Chris Sandle before you ask), he leads the team in scoring (16.5), minutes (28.5) and steals (13). The long-armed wing already has four 20-point games, one double-double (15 points and 10 boards vs. Cal Poly) and is averaging 6.1 boards per game and is shooting .563 from the field (45-of-80).

ASU won two of its final five last year, beating #22 USC 68-58 on Feb. 18 and then winning 42-41 at Cal March 3 in the regular season finale, matching the best defensive performance in ASU's 522-game Pac-10 history (ASU beat UW 53-41 on Jan. 31, 1991) and the best in a Pac-10 road game. ASU improved throughout last year as in the second half of the Pac-10 season, its scoring margin was less than a three-pointer (-2.5 per game). Although ASU went 8-22 last year, it is 8-5 in its past 13 games.

ASU has two McDonald's All-Americans on its roster this year with freshmen James Harden (2007) and sophomore Eric Boateng (2005) in uniform. Other Pac-10 teams with McDonald's All-Americans in 2006-2007 include Arizona (Jerryd Bayless in 2007, Chase Budinger in 2006 and Jawann McClellan in 2004), Stanford (Brook and Robin Lopez in 2006), UCLA (Kevin Love from 2007 and James Keefe in 2006), Washington (Jon Brockman in 2005), Oregon (Malik Hairston in 2004) and USC (O.J. Mayo from 2007).

Herb Sendek's first recruit at ASU was Duke transfer Eric Boateng, a 6-10 2005 McDonald's All-American who attended high school in Delaware. He became just the fourth Mickey D AA to appear on an ASU roster, joining Jamal Faulkner (1989), Chris Sandle (1984) and Byron Scott (1979). James Harden is the fifth, but the first to sign out of high school since Sandle in 1984 (Jamal Faulkner went one year of prep school prior to ASU).

Herb Sendek took NC State to the five straight NCAA Tournaments (2002-2006) prior to ASU. To compare it to the Pac-10, only three schools (and one current Pac-10 coach) can match that in the 29 seasons since ASU and Arizona joined the league in 1978-79. Arizona (currently 23), UCLA (14 straight from 1989-2002) and Stanford (11 straight from 1995-2005) have had NCAA Tournaments streaks of more than five, but none of the other seven Pac-10 schools have gone to the NCAAs more than three straight times since the league expanded to 10 teams. In fact, California (2001-2003), Oregon State (1980-82 and 1988-90) and Washington (1984-86 and 2004-06) are the only schools to have made three straight appearances in that time frame.

ASU was in 14 games decided by five points or less, the most by an ASU squad in 23 years (1982-83 team had 17 of 33 games of five points). Fifteen of ASU's games were two-possession games (six points or less). ASU was in 21 games of 10 points or less, which led the Pac-10 and was in just nine games of 11+ point final margins, fewest in the loop. After losing five straight games by 20 total points (including three against ranked teams), ASU posted a 68-58 win over No. 22 USC on Feb. 18, its first win over a ranked team since March 20, 2003.

Jeff Pendergraph, a 2006 Pac-10 All-Freshmen selection and 2007 Pac-10 Honorable Mention pick, averaged 12.3 ppg. and 9.3 rpg. in final 24 games last year and posted eight double-doubles (now 14 in career). He finished second in the Pac-10 in FG percentage (.553), rebounding (8.9), offensive rebounding (3.33) and fourth in minutes (35.50) in league games. He ranked second overall in rebounding (9.1) and second in FG percentage (.551) and led league in offensive boards (3.93). He was perfect in eight field goals at Wazzu (Jan. 4) and grabbed 19 boards at Oregon (Feb. 8) and vs. Colgate (Dec. 19), most by a Sun Devil since Mike Batiste had 20 vs. Wagner (Nov. 19, 1997). He could lead ASU in rebounding for the third straight season (only Ike Diogu (2002-05) and Al Nealey (1957-60) have accomplished).

Herb Sendek is in his 15th season as a head coach and has averaged 18.7 wins per season. He led the Wolfpack to five straight NCAA appearances from 2002-06 and is now 268-182 (.596) in 15 seasons and was 191-132 (.591) at NC State. The 44-year-old (born Feb. 22, 1963) Pittsburgh, Pa., native is the second-youngest coach in the Pac-10 behind only second-year coach Tony Bennett of WSU. Only Duke posted more ACC wins (regular season and ACC Tournament) than NC State's 53 victories from 2002-2006. Coach Sendek also led NC State to five 20-win seasons in his final seven years. Another overlooked note is his 10-year stay at NC State. To compare it to the Pac-10, since the league expanded to 10 teams in 1978-79, only five coaches have coached at their schools for at least 10 years: Lute Olson (24 at Arizona), Ralph Miller (19 at Oregon State), Mike Montgomery (18 at Stanford), Ben Braun (12th at California) and Ernie Kent (11th at Oregon).