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Men's hoops hosts NIT Game vs. Alabama State (20-10)

March 16, 2008

TICKET NEWS: The Sun Devil Ticket Office will be offering tickets to season ticket holders beginning at 9 a.m. Monday for Tuesday night's first-round game against Alabama State (20-10), which tips at 8 p.m. Season ticket holders will be allowed to purchase seats in the same location as their season tickets until noon. Tickets will be priced at $15 for lower level seats and $10 for upper level seats. Student tickets will be priced at $5 each. The sale of tickets to guarantee a season ticket location will only be available until noon on Monday due to the short time until the game.

SUN DEVIL DATA: The Arizona State's men's hoops team, 19-12 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 makes its 10th appearance in the NIT and its first since the 2004-05 season as it hosts Alabama State (20-10) Tuesday at 8 p.m. PT/MST on ESPN2. ASU has won 19 games for just the sixth time in the past 25 seasons and a win would give ASU 20 wins for just the fourth time in 27 years. 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) with freshmen making a league-leading 87 starts, playing more than 46 percent of the minutes and scoring more than 51 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.

BIG WIN: ASU was the only Pac-10 team to have a win over a RPI top-10 team outside the loop with its 77-55 victory over #9 Xavier, who is 19-4 since the loss on Dec. 15. The 22-point win is the largest over a ranked team in school history.

STUFF TO KNOW: ASU is led in scoring by the most famous Sun Devil southpaw since Phil Mickelson, James Harden, who has 15 20-point games on the year, topping Ike Diogu's ASU freshmen record of 12 set in 2002-03. The 18-year old Harden (born August of 1989) is the youngest player in the Pac-10 as his 17.6 points per game is second-best in ASU freshman history and he leads the Pac-10 with 68 steals, tied for sixth-best by a freshman in Pac-10 history...ASU was 5-4 at home in Pac-10 games after going 9-27 in Tempe the previous four seasons...ASU is 21-15 in its past 36 games after starting last year 6-19...ASU has won its share of close games (7-4 in games decided by 10 points or less) and makes its free throws (.741 percentage is currently fifth-best in school history and second best in past 21 seasons)...ASU's 5-4 record in the back half of Pac-10 play was just the third for the Sun Devils in the past 13 seasons.

TURNAROUND INFO: ASU became just the fifth team in 30 years of Pac-10 play to go from a last-place finish (2-16 last year) to a .500 record in conference play the next year. Washington State did it last year as Tony Bennett earned National Coach of the Year.

Washington State from 3-15 in 1980-81 to 10-8 in 1981-82
California from 5-13 in 1987-88 to 10-8 (NIT) in 1988-89
Stanford from 2-16 in 1992-93 to 10-8 (NIT) in 1993-94
Washington State from 4-14 in 2005-06 to 13-5 (NCAAs) in 2006-07
Arizona State from 2-16 in 2006-07 to 9-9 (NIT) in 2007-08

THIS WAS OVERLOOKED: James Harden set the Pac-10 tournament record with seven steals against USC on March 13. It is the most steals by a Sun Devil since Eddie House had seven vs. Kansas State on Nov. 24, 1998, in the Maui Invitational. It marked just the ninth time in school history a Sun Devil had at least seven steals.

ANOTHER FRESHMEN: Freshman Rihards Kuksiks is averaging 27.2 minutes and 10.0 points in the past nine games (second on the team) and has made 21 three pointers. He had 15 points in the win over seventh-ranked Stanford on Feb. 14, 15 at Washington on Feb. 23 and 10 in March 1 win vs. USC. He has 90 points in his past nine games after scoring 42 in the first 22 games. In the second half of the Pac-10 season, four Sun Devil freshmen played 52 percent of the minutes, scored 54 percent of the points and made 53 three-pointers.

YOU READ THIS BEFORE: The Sun Devils had five wins over teams in the top 50 of the RPI. ASU (5-7) beat #9 Xavier, #14 Stanford, had two wins over #37 Arizona and beat No. #28 USC on March 1. Other Pac-10 records vs. the top-50 include UCLA (11-2), Stanford (7-4), Arizona (5-8), Washington State (4-7), USC (4-8), Oregon (4-9), California (2-10) and Washington (2-10).

DON'T COUNT THEM OUT: The Sun Devils came back from double-digit deficits in two big wins, as it put the brakes on a five-game losing skid in dramatic fashion on Feb. 10 in Tucson, falling behind 22-6 but coming back to take a 13-point second-half lead and winning 59-54 to sweep Arizona for the first time since 1994-95 (and notch first win in Tucson since March 11, 1995). On Feb. 14 against seventh-ranked Stanford, ASU was down by 14 in the second half and by seven with 1:49 left before a rally put the game into overtime as ASU won 72-68. On Feb. 16 against Cal, ASU made seven three-pointers in the final 1:11 to chop an 11-point deficit to three before falling 76-73.

TEAM STUFF: ASU's scholarship roster has an interesting mix as it includes one senior, one junior, five freshmen, sophomore transfer and three sophomores who played 87.3 minutes per game last year...ASU ranks second in the Pac-10 in steals (7.19) and is third in turnover margin (+1.03)...ASU is third in field goal percentage defense (.412)...Sun Devils give up 62.3 ppg., which is fourth in the league...Derek Glasser is second in the Pac-10 and 25th in the nation in assist/turnover ratio at 2.32...ASU is third in the Pac-10 in free throw percentage at .741...Jeff Pendergraph is second in the Pac-10 in field goal percentage (.597). The ASU record is .630 held by Trent Edwards in 1988-89.

A LOT OF MINUTES: James Harden and Ty Abbott both topped the pace set by Byron Scott in 1979-80 for Sun Devil freshmen minutes played in the 18 Pac-10 games. Harden averaged 35.9 minutes per game in the 18 league games while Abbott finished at 34.8. Derek Glasser averaged 32.2 minutes last year in Pac-10 play.

MORE PENDERGRAPH: Jeff Pendergraph became the 30th member of the ASU 1,000-point club against USC on March 1. He has 1,045 points in 88 career games (11.9 points per game). He also has 637 career rebounds (7.2 per game), just 19 away from joining the ASU top-10 list.

TURNAROUND II: ASU's 11-game turnaround in wins (ASU was 8-22 overall in 2006-07) is currently is tied for the best by any major conference team (with Minnesota) and tied for third overall.

CLOSE GAME UPDATE: Last year, ASU was 4-17 in games decided by 10 points or less, but this year the Sun Devils are 7-4 with wins over LSU (87-84 in Maui), Montana State (66-62), Oregon (62-54), Arizona twice (64-59 in OT and 59-54 in Tucson), at California (99-90 in double OT) and vs. seventh-ranked Stanford (72-68 in OT). ASU lost its only overtime game last year but is 4-0 this year with the wins over LSU, Arizona, at Cal and vs. #7 Stanford. The four overtime wins is the most by an ASU team since 1985-86 as the Sun Devils were 4-2, while the school mark is 5-0 by the 1980-81 team. Also, ASU was 3-12 in two-possession games last year (six points or less or OT) but is 6-4 this year.

NIT: ASU will make its tenth appearance in the postseason NIT and has a 3-9 (.250) mark...ASU's last appearance was at UNLV on March 17, 2005, when it fell 1999-2000, ASU beat New Mexico State 83-77 on March 15 in Tempe but lost at North Carolina State, coached by Herb Sendek, 60-57 on March 21...overall, ASU is 21-30 (.412) in postseason...Herb Sendek is 6-7 in the NIT as his 1999-2000 team made it the finals after beating Tulane, ASU, Mississippi in home games and then beat Wake Forest in New York City before losing to Penn State.

HARDEN ON DEFENSE/OFFENSE: James Harden is trying to become just the fifth freshman to lead the Pac-10 in steals. The others are Jason Kidd of Cal (3.8 spg/1993), Baron Davis of UCLA (2.4 spg/1998) and USC's Errick Craven (2.1 spg/2002) and Gabe Pruitt (1.9 spg/2005). He currently leads the league at 2.19 per game, .15 ahead of UCLA junior Darren Collison. He also had 17 blocks, seventh on the ASU freshmen list, just four behind Tommy Smith (17 in 1999-2000) for the sixth spot. His 68 steals already is tied for eighth-best in Pac-10 history for a freshman. When you compare the points with the all-time freshman steals leaders, it is safe to say Harden could end up as the first freshmen in league history with 60 steals and a 17.0 points per game average.

REAL DEAL: The Pac-10's youngest player, James Harden (turned 18 on Aug. 26), leads ASU in scoring (17.6 ppg./tied for fourth in Pac-10), steals (2.19 per game/leads the Pac-10) and minutes per game (33.8/ninth in Pac-10). He is shooting .529 from the field, .759 from the free throw line and .421 from the three-point stripe (sixth in Pac-10). Harden is the first McDonald's All-American to sign with ASU out of high school since 1984 (it was Chris Sandle before you ask). He has 15 20-point games (topping Ike Diogu's ASU freshmen record of 12), which is fourth-best in the league, including five straight from Dec. 29-Jan. 17 which is a first for an ASU freshman. He averaged 18.2 points (tied for fifth) and 5.1 boards in Pac-10 games and was the only player in the league to lead his team in scoring in each of the first eight Pac-10 games. He was named as a top 30 midseason finalist for the Naismith and Wooden Awards (one of just six freshmen on the Wooden list and one of seven Pac-10 players noted).