The ASU men’s basketball team never wants to go through the offensive struggle that it went through the last time it met the USC Trojans.
It wasn’t pretty, as the Sun Devils scored a measly 37 points on just 24.4 percent shooting.
“I watched that tape, and we were brutal,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said. “I don’t know how anybody watched that game. Hopefully we will be better than that.”
What came of the offensive struggles was a complete change of offensive scheme for ASU. Some may say that the USC game was a blessing in disguise, leading to the new offense that changed the Sun Devils’ season around.
“The sequence of events as they fell led us to make certain decisions,” Sendek said. “[That’s why] you want to play good people early.”
It was no surprise that USC held ASU’s offense down — the Trojans are the Pac-10’s top defense and allow just 55.9 points per game during conference play.
“They are one of the best defensive teams in the country,” Sendek said. “They are really hard to score against. Their personnel is geared for great defense. When you score a basket, you feel like you should get six points and get a chance to kick an extra point when you go against them.”
However, ASU (20-9, 10-6 Pac-10) thinks that its new style of offense will give it a much better chance of succeeding against USC’s stout defense.
“They really focused and sat on our ball screens up there, and we just ran them still and it didn’t work out very well,” senior guard Derek Glasser said. “Now that we have much more spacing and are free-flowing, they aren’t going to be able to just sit on a screen.” Immediately following its win over ASU, USC (16-12, 8-8) self-imposed sanctions on its men’s basketball program that included a postseason ban.
“When I first saw what their penalties were, I didn’t know what to expect,” Glasser said. “As a senior, I thought about if I had no shot to go to the postseason. I don’t know how I would have reacted in [senior guard Mike] Gerrity’s position. I don’t know how their season would have turned out if they didn’t have the sanctions.”
Despite having no postseason hopes, the Trojans have still played good basketball for the majority of the season, which is a credit to first-year coach Kevin O’Neill.
“Kevin is an outstanding coach and has done an outstanding job wherever he has been,” Sendek said. “I don’t think it is true that they aren’t playing for anything. Even when you play shirts and skins in the park, you try your best. I don’t think you need to have a postseason to affirm what you are doing.”
The Sun Devils and Trojans have established a little bit of a rivalry during the past few seasons. Games have been physical, which is expected for two heavily defensive-minded teams.
“This game has been a pretty physical game with a few altercations,” Glasser said. “For me personally, it is a big game, and both teams play with a little bit of an edge when we play each other.”
The Sun Devils still have a chance to win a share of the Pac-10 championship this weekend, but they need to sweep the Los Angeles schools and hope that California falls to Stanford on Saturday.
“We are really focusing on ourselves,” Sendek said. “We can’t control what happens in other games or with other teams. Right now the USC preparation is where we have to be.”
Even if the conference title falls out of their reach, Glasser feels that in order to have any chance at an at-large bid, ASU needs a sweep this weekend.
“We are still focused on making the NCAA Tournament,” Glasser said. “We know how important these games are.”
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