After both of the ASU men’s basketball team’s close games against Oregon State and Oregon this weekend, coach Herb Sendek joked with reporters about his health.
“Is your heart still OK?” one reporter asked after Saturday’s game against Oregon.
“No,” Sendek replied.
It’s easy to understand why. The Sun Devils’ weekend was no less anticlimactic than a rollercoaster.
Thursday, ASU overcame a sluggish start and needed overtime to defeat Oregon State 86-82.
Saturday, the Sun Devils jumped out to a 21-point lead at the beginning of the second half, but nearly lost the game when Oregon erased the deficit. ASU held on to win 74-72.
Even though blowing a 21-point lead isn’t what coaches want to see, Sendek still applauded how ASU responded and came out with a win.
“I think for the second game in as many weeks of having a big lead and then losing it, our guys showed great character in retaking the lead and ending up winning both at Cal and here,” Sendek said.
Senior center Jordan Bachynski came up huge in both games. He broke the Pac-12 all-time blocks record and recorded 17 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocks on Thursday, then made the game-saving block as time expired Saturday.
ASU has become accustomed to playing close games. The Sun Devils’ two games prior to this weekend, which were road games at California and Stanford, also went down to the wire. Sendek said ASU is gaining a lot of experience in every battle.
“The one thing you try to do is to take each situation and turn it into whatever lesson is there to be learned,” Sendek said. “You do that with the good, you do that with the bad, and you just have to keep teaching and growing. Anytime you’re in the fire like (Saturday), there’s always a lot you could learn.”
Sendek knows more tough games will be ahead, especially with a rematch against No. 2 UA Friday at home next on the schedule. After all, it’s part of playing in the Pac-12 and Sendek said the conference deserves more national respect.
“Just the eyeball test of the level of this conference is incredible to me,” Sendek said.
The sixth man
It was also an eventful weekend for the 942 Crew, ASU’s student section.
To honor James Harden, the students decided to remain quiet during Thursday’s game until the Sun Devils scored their 13th point, which represented Harden’s number 13. Student silence certainly didn’t help, as ASU played without energy to start the game and struggled to get over that scoring mark. Sendek pleaded at the end of the game to discontinue the annual tradition.
Saturday, a couple fans taunted Oregon senior guard Jason Calliste as he paced along between the Ducks’ bench and the student section to recover from a hard fall. Calliste confronted one of the students before the Oregon assistants restrained him from the student section.
After the game, Oregon assistant coach Brian Fish claimed he was spit on as the Ducks went to the tunnel. ASU police reportedly spoke to Calliste to investigate the two incidents.
Finding more ways to win
For the first part of the season, ASU heavily relied on its ability to make 3-pointers and was a team that fit the old saying in basketball, “Live by the 3, die by the 3.”
It wasn’t the case against Oregon. The Sun Devils shot horribly from the perimeter. Senior guard Jermaine Marshall went 0-for-7 from behind the arc.
“A good sign is, on a night when we didn’t shoot the three — 3-for-15 — we found a way to win,” Sendek said. “In many games, unless we’ve been shooting the ball well, finding that other way has been difficult for us. … We still scored 74 points, which is good and found a way to win.”
Sendek not pleased with turnovers
A huge reason why ASU’s big lead over Oregon lead went away was because the Ducks swarmed the Sun Devils with their fullcourt press in the second half, making ASU commit seven of its 15 turnovers.
“That continues to be something that we need to address and improve over the course of the weekend,” Sendek said. “A shade on the high side for where we need to be.”
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