Saturday, November 3, 2007
That Other ASU Game Today
The Men's Basketball team tipped off today for an exhibition against Grand Canyon University and put up a solid win with a final score of 80-53. The exhibition offered fans a free look at Herb Sendek's new roster which features seven newcomers. Sendek started a young lineup of 3 freshmen, a sophomore, and a junior. The starting lineup of Jamelle McMillan, James Harden, Ty Abbott, Eric Boateng, and Jeff Pendergraph gave us a glimpse of the talent that we will see in Wells Fargo Arena this season, but this lineup was quickly dismantled within the first 5 minutes of the game. Sendek made 4 substitutions, leaving only Pendergraph, and showed a bit of the depth that this year's Sun Devils will enjoy. This substitution was the first of many as Sendek trotted out at least 15 different lineups by my count. Last year, the Devils had a rotation of basically 7 players. In today's game, Sendek played 11 different players -- 10 in the first 8 minutes. This is to be expected in the first exhibition of the season as Sendek wants to see which lineups are most effective.
The excitement surrounding the team's newcomers is warranted as they showed flashes today of a bright future. The most noticeable difference between this year's starting guards and last year's is the ability to create shots before the shot clock is nearing zero. Harden led the team with 19 points and 9 rebounds and showed his ability to get to the rim with extreme ease as he continually slashed into the lane. He also showed his ability to draw contact and repeatedly get to the foul line, shooting 16 free throws. The only problem with his strength in getting to the line was his inability to convert the free throws. This is a problem that Harden will need to remedy as his ability to get to the foul line could mean the difference between wins and losses in all of those close Pac-10 games.
Much of the Sun Devil scoring came from the backcourt as McMillan and Abbott showed an affinity for the 3-pointer as McMillan hit two early treys and Abbott hit a couple more with his lightning-quick release. McMillan and Abbott combined for 17 points and 5 three pointers. The duo also had 3 steals each, contributing to ASU's 15 steals for the afternoon. Pendergraph and Boateng didn't show much offense today but did both display their shot blocking ability and how strong the help side defense can be when both are in the lineup together.
Things to work on: The defense is still susceptible to the 3-pointer as Sendek ran a 2-3 zone for most of the game, which left GCU's outside shooters open. Just about everyone struggled to finish inside as the Devils were repeatedly turned away near the rim. This team will improve greatly as the season progresses since many of the inconsistencies in today's game will lessen as the team gets more comfortable playing together.
Play of the Game: Freshman Kraidon Woods throwing down a monster dunk over a defender for the And-1 with 30 seconds left in the game.
Next Game: Wednesday, November 7 at 7:00pm vs. Western New Mexico