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Men's hoops takes on Salukis

March 20, 2008

SUN DEVIL DATA: The Arizona State's men's hoops team, 20-12 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 Southern Illinois Thursday at 9 p.m. PT/MST on ESPN2. ASU has won 20 games 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). Freshmen have made a league-leading and school record 90 starts, played more than 46 percent of the minutes and scored 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. ASU topped Alabama State Tuesday in the first round of the NIT 64-53 behind James Harden's 25 points and 13 boards as ASU opened up a 39-21 lead at the half.

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. ASU had as many top 50 RPI wins as Arizona (five) and one more than Washington State, USC and Oregon (four each).

STUFF TO KNOW: ASU is led in scoring by the most famous Sun Devil southpaw since Phil Mickelson, James Harden, who has an ASU freshman record 16 20-point games on the year (seventh-best in school history). The 18-year old Harden (born August of 1989) is the youngest player in the Pac-10 as his 17.8 points per game is second-best in ASU freshman history and he leads the Pac-10 with 70 steals, 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 22-15 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 (.737 percentage is currently fifth-best in school history and second best in past 21 seasons)...ASU's winning record (5-4) in the back half of Pac-10 play was just the third for the Sun Devils in the past 13 seasons.

TURNAROUND: ASU became just the fifth team in 30 years of the Pac-10 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.

GOOD NOTE:Teams with multiple wins against top NCAA Tournament teams seeded #3 or above... 4-Pitt (Louisville, Duke and Georgetown twice)
3-Purdue (Louisville and Wisconsin twice); Texas (Tennessee, Kansas and UCLA); UCLA (Stanford three times)
2-Arizona State (Stanford and Xavier); Duke (North Carolina and Wisconsin); St. Joseph's (Xavier twice); Tennessee (Memphis and Xavier); USC (Stanford and UCLA)

Pac-10 Top 50 RPI Wins

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 70 steals is tied for fifth-best in school history and he is just six shy of the ASU record of 76 set by Fat Lever in 1981-82.

ANOTHER FRESHMEN: Freshman Rihards Kuksiks is averaging 26.9 minutes and 9.6 points in the past 10 games (second on the team) and has made 23 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 96 points in his past 10 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.

HEADING INTO THIS WEEK: 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 1,053 points in 89 career games (11.8 points per game). He also has 642 career rebounds (7.2 per game), just 14 away from joining the ASU top-10 list.

TURNAROUND II: ASU's 12-game turnaround in wins (ASU was 8-22 overall in 2006-07) is currently the best by any major conference team and tied for second 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.

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 18 blocks, seventh on the ASU freshmen list, three behind Tommy Smith (17 in 1999-2000) for the sixth spot. His 70 steals is sixth-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 70 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 (17.8 ppg./tied for fourth in Pac-10), steals (2.19 per game/leads the Pac-10) and minutes per game (33.9/ninth in Pac-10). He is shooting .523 from the field, .751 from the free throw line and .410 from the three-point stripe. 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 16 20-point games (topping Ike Diogu's ASU freshmen record of 12) 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).

HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: Arizona State improved by seven wins in league play this year (2-16 to 9-9), one of just 11 teams to do that in league history, and just the fourth team in the past 15 seasons (1994-95 to present).

STEADY: Jeff Pendergraph has 48 blocks (he had 45 in his first two seasons) and is shooting .597 from the field (second in the Pac-10) and .789 from the free throw line. He has four double-doubles this year (17 in career). 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. He is shooting .755 from the free throw line in his career (243-of-322). His 93 career blocks is tied for sixth in ASU history with Kurt Nimphius (1976-80).

SOME RANDOM HARDEN NOTES: In 37 minutes against a good defensive team in USC on March 1, Harden missed two shots out of 18. He was 7-of-8 from the field and 9-of-10 from the ASU's four overtime games (all wins and three of them in Pac-10 games) he averaged 24.8 ppg and 5.5 rebounds and has 10 ASU's five Pac-10 home wins he averaged 23.4 points, six boards, three assists and two steals as he led ASU to 5-4 Pac-10 home mark. In the prevous four years, ASU was 9-27 in Pac-10 home second on the team in assists (100), including 63 (3.5 per game) in Pac-10 ASU's eight Pac-10 wins he shot 54.5 percent from the floor and was 13-27 from three-point stripe. He averaged 20.0 points and 5.6 boards in those nine games...shot 45.2 percent from three-point land in road games.

PLAYER OF WEEK: Jeff Pendergraph earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors following his Feb. 10 outing at Arizona when he posted 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting and eight boards in 39 minutes in ASU's 59-54 win. Freshmen Ty Abbott and James Harden became the fourth and fifth ASU freshmen to win Pac-10 Player of the Week honors, as Abbott took home the Dec. 17 honor after his 19-point performance in the 77-55 win over Xavier on Dec. 15 which included five three pointers in the largest win over a ranked team in school history. Harden notched the honor after leading ASU to just its third 2-0 start in Pac-10 history when they swept Oregon (Jan. 3) and Oregon State (Jan. 5) in Tempe to open Pac-10 play. Other Sun Devil freshman to earn the honor are Ike Diogu (Feb. 16, 2003), Mario Bennett (Feb. 24, 1992) and Chris Sandle (Dec. 10, 1984). Seventeen ASU players have been named Pac-10 Player of the Week on 26 occasions, but this year marks the first time in the 25-year history of the award three separate Sun Devils have taken home the honor.

AT HOME: ASU has won 14 home games for just the eighth time in the 32-year history of Wells Fargo Arena, as it is 14-4 this year with wins over NCAA Tournament teams Arizona, Xavier, Stanford, USC, Oregon and Coppin State. ASU previously won 14 home games in 1974-75 (14-0), 1979-80 (14-3), 1980-81 (14-1), 1990-91 (14-4), 1994-95 (14-3), 1997-98 (14-4), and 1999-2000 (14-3).

TREE: Herb Sendek has six former assistants who are 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.

FRESHMEN: Freshmen accounted for 69 of 150 starts in Herb Sendek's rookie 30-game season. Through 32 games, the numbers now read 159 out of 310 starts in his 62 games (freshmen have started 87 games this year). In his two years, ASU has had freshmen make 51.3 percent of the starts. Sophomores have made 66 starts (.213), juniors 49 (.158) and seniors 36 (.116). Against Xavier on Dec. 15, ASU started four freshmen for the first time in school history. ASU's freshmen have accounted for 51.3 percent of the points this year. Last year ASU's 69 freshmen starts set the school record by 24 starts that the Sun Devils blew have easily surpassed.

THE HEAD COACH: 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 282-192 (.595) 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 full-time 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. 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).