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Men's hoops plays earliest road game in school history

November 17, 2008

JUMP IT UP: The Arizona State's men's hoops team, 21-13 and 9-9 in the Pac-10 last year and 1-0 this season under third-year head coach Herb Sendek, visits the San Diego State Aztecs (20-13 in 2007-08/1-0 this year) on Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 8 p.m. PT/9 p.m. MT. CBS College Sports has the television broadcast while KTAR 620 AM has the radio call. ASU, ranked in the national preseason polls for the first time since 1991-92, opened its season with an 80-64 win over Mississippi Valley State on Friday behind James Harden's 24 points and 10 assists. Tuesday's Nov. 18 road tilt will mark the earliest road game on the calendar in ASU history, as in the past 25 seasons ASU has played just three true road games in November. ASU posted a 20-win season for just the fourth time in 27 years last year after being picked to finish ninth in the Pac-10 preseason media poll. The Sun Devils return their top seven scorers and 94.6 percent of their scoring in 2008-2009 led by All-Pac-10 selections James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph. ASU 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 notched wins over RPI top-60 teams Xavier (9), Stanford (14), USC (28), Arizona (twice, 37) and Oregon (58). Freshmen made a league-leading and school record 96 starts, played more than 47 percent of the minutes and scored more than 52 percent of the points.

THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN A GOOD NOTE LAST YEAR, BUT WE MISSED IT, BUT IT IS STILL SOLID: ASU became just the second team in the 30-year history of the Pac-10 to lose at least 20 games one year (ASU was 8-22 in 2006-07) and then win at least 20 the next season (ASU was 21-13 in 2007-08). Only California in 1988-89 can match the feat, as it was 9-20 in 1987-88 and 20-13 in 1988-89. Miami (Fla.) also notched the feat last year, going 22-10 after going 12-20 in 2006-07, the first time in the ACC's 55 seasons that has happened. Texas A&M is the only team to do it in the 12-year history of the Big 12 , as it was 7-21 in 2003-04 and went 21-10 in 2004-05. Among the other major conferences, this manufactured note has never happened in the Big East (28 seasons), Big Ten (103 seasons) or the SEC (76 seasons).

FIRST GAME QUICK NOTES: James Harden's 10 assists vs. Mississippi Valley State is the most by a Sun Devil in the Herb Sendek era (now 65 games) and the most by a Sun Devil since Antwi Atuahene had 10 vs. Oregon on Feb. 11, 2006 (most in past 71 games)...the MVSU game was the first time that ASU didn't have a freshman in the starting lineup since Dec. 10, 2005, a 75-71 loss to Utah Valley State, a span of the past 87 games. In the previous three years nine freshman have earned 198 starts and 165 out of 320 in the Herb Sendek 64 game-era entering MVSU contest. In his first two years, ASU had freshmen make 51.6 percent of the starts...James Harden's 24 points is the most by a Sun Devil in an opener since Ike Diogu also had 24 vs. Jackson State on Nov. 21, 2004.

ABOUT THE NEXT TWO GAMES: ASU plays at San Diego State on Nov. 18, its first meeting against the Aztecs since a 64-62 loss at SDSU on Dec. 16, 2000. Awvee Storey hit a half-court three-pointer at the buzzer that was orginally called good, but after reviewing the replay the bucket was disallowed. The Sun Devils were not good in the first half, posting just 17 points (at the time fewest since November of 1991) and shooting 6-of-25 from the field. It was just 14-of-26 (.538) from the free throw line in the game. ASU leads the series against SDSU 14-10, but the Aztecs were 20-13 last year and five starters and eight lettermen...ASU hosts Pepperdine Sunday (2 p.m.) for the first time since a 101-83 Sun Devil win on Dec. 4, 1967. Pepperdine leads the series 10-6, but ASU has won the last four...ASU then travels to Anaheim for the 76 Classic Nov. 27-30 and will meet Charlotte (20-14 last year) on Turkey Day (Nov. 27) at 6 p.m. PT on ESPNU.

AP PRESEASON RANKING NOTE: The Associated Press ranked ASU 15th in its preseason poll (Oct. 31), the Sun Devils' first preseason AP ranking since 1991-92 (24th), the second-highest preseason ranking in school history (1963-64 team was sixth), and the fourth time overall (other time was 18th in 1975-76). Last year, for the first time since the final poll of 1994-95 (March 13) ASU grabbed a spot in the Associated Press rankings, as it was No. 22 (No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches' poll) on Jan. 14. Coach Sendek had the Sun Devils in the rankings in his second year, two years prior to his rebuilding effort at NC State that resulted in five straight NCAA Tournament appearances (2002-06).

USA TODAY #15 PRESEASON RANKING NOTE: ASU is 15th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll (announced Oct. 30). USA Today started the poll in 1991-92 and that is the only year ASU has been in the preseason top 25, when it was No. 22. ASU got thumped twice in Maui to start the year after suspensions hit and fell out of the polls before even playing a home game.

POPULAR ON THE TUBE: According to Nielsen Media Research, ASU's television ratings in 2007-08 on FSN Arizona enjoyed an increase of 196% over its average rating for the previous season. The 15 Sun Devil games on FSN AZ averaged a 1.5 rating/3 share in the Phoenix market. That figure means that an average of 27,039 households in the Valley were tuning into a game. In 2006-07, the Sun Devils averaged a 0.5 rating. A rating is the percentage of all television households in a market, while the share is the percentage of those television households that actually have their sets on during the particular time. One ratings point equal 18.026 households in the Phoenix market. OTHER RANKINGS: ASU has hit the preseason rankings and here they are...13th by Lindy's...14th by ESPN's Andy Katz...15th by Sporting News and Blue Ribbon...16th by Sports Illustrated, and Athlon...18th by Dick Vitale and CBS Sports...25th by

STEADY JEFF: Jeff Pendergraph had 56 blocks last year (he had 45 in his first two seasons) and shot .593 from the field (third in the Pac-10) and .799 from the free throw line (tenth in Pac-10). He had five double-doubles in 2007-08 (18 in career). He is shooting .759 from the free throw line in his career (255-of-336). His 101 career blocks is sixth in ASU history.

COACHING TREE: Herb Sendek now has eight former assistants who are D-I head coaches as 12-year sidekick Mark Phelps earned the Drake top spot last spring after serving for 10 years on Coach Sendek's staff at NC State and for two years at ASU. Former NC State sidekick also John Groce earned the Ohio University position. The others are Jim Christian, formerly at Kent State and now at TCU (Miami assistant from 1994-96), Charlie Coles at Miami of Ohio (Miami assistant from 1994-96), Larry Hunter at Western Carolina (NC State assistant from 2001-05), Ron Hunter of IUPUI (Miami assistant from 1993-94), Ohio State's Thad Matta (Miami assistant in 1994-95) and Xavier's Sean Miller (assistant at both Miami from 1994-96 and at NC State from 1996-2000). Coles, Miller and Matta all led their teams to the 2007 NCAA Tournament, then last year Christian led Kent State to the NCAAs, Miller led Xavier to the Elite Eight and Matta's Buckeye squad won the NIT a year after going to the Final Four.

STUFF TO KNOW: ASU was led in scoring by the most famous Sun Devil southpaw since Phil Mickelson, James Harden, who had an ASU freshman record 16 20-point games (seventh-best in school history and tied for third-best in the Pac-10). The 19-year old Harden (born August of 1989) was the youngest player in the Pac-10 in 2007-08 as his 17.8 points per game is second-best in ASU freshman history and he led the Pac-10 with 73 steals, fifth-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 has gone 24-16 (.600) after starting Herb Sendek's first year 6-19...ASU won its share of close games (7-4 in games decided by 10 points or less) and made its free throws (.739 percentage was fifth-best in school history and second best in past 21 seasons) the second half of the Pac-10 season, four Sun Devil freshmen played 52 percent of the minutes and scored 54 percent of the points.

THIEF: James Harden set the Pac-10 tournament record with seven steals against USC (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 a Sun Devil had at least seven steals. Harden's 73 steals is tied for fourth-best in school history and was just three shy of the ASU record of 76 set by Fat Lever in 1981-82. He is averaging 3.5 steals in in his past six contests dating to last year. He ended fifth in the league in scoring at 17.8 points per game.

SLICK RICK (RIHARDS): Rihards Kuksiks averaged 26.6 minutes and 8.7 points in the final 12 games last year and made 25 three pointers, and then posted 12 points and four three-pointers in the season opener vs. MVSU on Nov. 14. 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 116 points in his past 13 games (8.9 ppg.) dating to last year after scoring 42 in the first 22 games.

NO FRESHMAN STARTING: With ASU having some experience and returning starters this year, the opening game was the first time that ASU didn't have a freshman in the starting lineup since Dec. 10, 2005, a 75-71 loss to Utah Valley State, a span of 86 games. In Coach Sendek's first two seasons, freshmen made 165 out of 320 starts in the 64 games. In his first two years, ASU freshmen made 51.6 percent of the starts.

DON'T COUNT THEM OUT: The Sun Devils came back from double-digit deficits in two big wins in 2007-08, 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.