Ah, the power of alliteration.
ASU trailed most of the game against Oregon but used defense and free throws in the closing minutes to pull out an impressive 62-54 victory. James Harden came up with big play after big play at the right time and Derek Glasser played his best game of the season. I thought I'd make some observations from the game.
- Attendance was listed as 7,690 but it had to be more than that. The game featured what appeared to be the biggest crowd of the season with the lower bowl mostly full and a significant number of people in the upper section. For a lot of schools this would be considered abysmal but for ASU it's a big step toward program respectability. The larger student section was mostly full as well which leads me to believe that once school starts back up it could be possible that a student section seat may be hard to come by, especially against better teams if we keep winning. Guess you'll have to start showing up earlier.
- I'm starting to develop a man-crush on James Harden. He just does so many things right as a freshman. In the first half when ASU was down by six and having trouble getting a bucket, Harden forced his defender into fouling him behind the 3-point line as the shot clock expired...two possessions in a row. That's six free throws. Deficit gone. He also hit a huge pull-up three as the shot clock expired late in the second half that gave ASU the lead for good. Also, I can't talk enough about his ability to drive and draw fouls. One other thing that really impressed me throughout the game is that he appears to be taking on a stronger leadership role. He repeatedly pulled aside Ty Abbott (couldn't hit a shot) and Jamelle McMillan (turnover trouble) to offer what I'm guessing was encouraging words or advice. He also kept a cool head late in the game when an Oregon player got in his face after fouling him. Derek Glasser got fired up over that but Harden simply grabbed Glasser and walked to the free throw line to seal the game. Love it.
- Jeff Pendergraph played really well in the second half. He scored 8 points early in the second half and he continues to play much better when established early in the offense. I'm not sure at this point how he'll match up against bigger defenders that he'll face later (Kevin Love, Jon Brockman, Lopez twins, etc.) but he does a good job of drawing fouls and shoots free throws quite well.
- Derek Glasser was HUGE late in this game. His experience from last year really shows. I don't think he'll be letting go of that starting position anytime soon. Glasser finished with 10 points (7 in the last 3 minutes), 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals. He played great defense on Tajuan Porter, who I thought might be too quick for Glasser, and came up with a huge steal and layup in the last 2 minutes to widen the gap in the score.
- Our defense continues to be great. It's going to win us a bunch of games this year. ASU held Oregon to 30 points below its scoring average, and the defense helped negate Ty Abbott' s bad night. Abbott scored 7 points early then didn't hit a shot the rest of the night, finishing 3-of-11 from the field, including 1-of-9 from distance. Oregon was scoring easily in the post at the beginning of the game by pounding it into Maarty Leunen which was a concern for me as he continued to be isolated against the much smaller Jerren Shipp but ASU made the proper adjustments and it ceased being a problem. Just hope we can continue this against some of the better post scorers in the Pac-10. ASU was aided by the fact that Oregon shot only 11% from three for the game but the Devils didn't fare much better (only 5-of-20 from deep) so I guess it evens out.
- This game was a three man show for the Devils and if Derek Glasser can continue to play at such a high level, then ASU will be very dangerous when Abbott and Shipp are more involved. Both players were non-factors offensively in this game, but the stellar play of Harden, Pendergraph, and Glasser overcame this.
The Devils play again at home on Saturday at 2pm against Oregon State. The game will be televised on FSN and on the radio at 620 KTAR.