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Men's basketball snaps losing streak with win over WSU

(Photo by Aaron Lavinsky)
(Photo by Aaron Lavinsky)

When ASU assistant coaches Lamont Smith and Scott Pera knew they were going to be without senior guards Ty Abbott and Rihards Kuksiks on Saturday, they devised a plan.

The two coaches crashed team breakfast.

Smith came into the room screaming and yelling, startling the players who were barely awake.

“Coach Pera gave me a call this morning and said, ‘Let’s game plan, let’s do this,’ and I said, ‘I’m in,’” Smith said. “I’m glad our guys responded to it.”

Respond they did, and now the long losing streak is over.

The Sun Devils knocked off Washington State 71-69 on Saturday afternoon, snapping their 11-game Pac-10 losing streak.

When WSU’s junior forward Abe Lodwick’s game-winning 3-point attempt hit off the front of the rim and the buzzer sounded, sophomore guard Trent Lockett fell onto his back with pure relief.

“It just felt great to get a win finally,” Lockett said. “The way things have been going lately, when that shot went up I didn’t have the best feeling. When it hit the rim it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.”

From the start, ASU (10-16, 2-12 Pac-10) played with a great amount of intensity, something Lockett credits to the crashing of the pregame meal.

“We were eating, and coach Smith came in yelling, ‘Let’s go, let’s go.’” Lockett said. “It was 8 o’clock in the morning, everybody still kind of waking up and they were ready to go. It put us on the right path.

“It started there, and we really had energy. We played hard for 40 minutes. It was putting a full game together finally.”

That was exactly the intent of Smith and Pera.

“We knew at breakfast that we were without Ty (Abbott) and Rik (Kuksiks), and we wanted to give the guys some confidence and come in with a bit of energy and keep people positive about the situation,” Smith said. “We had nothing to lose.”

The Cougars (19-10, 7-8) had everything to lose. On the bubble, WSU couldn’t afford a loss against ASU.

“It’s really disappointing,” said WSU junior guard Klay Thompson, who didn’t start because he missed the team bus looking for his iPod. “You can’t dwell on it now.”

Dominating play in the first half, ASU used 21 points off of 12 Cougar turnovers to take a 40-28 lead into halftime.

The lead stretched to 44-28 in the second half’s opening minutes, but then Thompson got hot.

Scoring 24 of his game-high 28 points in the second half, Thompson led WSU on a 30-14 run to take a 58-56 lead with 6:57 to play.

Trailing 62-61 with 4:15 left, ASU held WSU scoreless for three minutes to take a 68-62 lead. Thompson then hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 36 seconds to play, making it a three-point game.

Lockett converted just one of two free throws at the other end. Thompson scored again, making it 69-67 with 21.4 seconds left.

Again Lockett made just one of two attempts, giving WSU a chance to tie.

Thompson air balled two 3-pointers, but Lodwick grabbed the offensive rebound, was fouled and converted both free throws.

WSU quickly fouled and sent ASU freshman guard Chanse Creekmur to the line, where he missed the first but made the second.

That gave the Cougars a chance to tie the game or win it with a three. Instead of going to Thompson, the ball wound up in Lodwick’s hands, and he missed.

“We called out a play and it broke,” Thompson said. “I’ll take a wide open look for Abe (Lodwick) any day. It was a wide-open shot. I missed probably 20 of them.”

When WSU came back to take the lead, the Sun Devils, instead of folding, responded well to the challenge.

“Sometimes it can be really challenging when you have a lead like we did [and] the other team comes storming back to take the lead, to somehow reverse the momentum again,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said. “When you’ve been losing like we’ve [been], you can see how easy it would be at that point to say, ‘uh oh, here we go again.’ I really give the guys great credit for their character.”

Lockett led the way for ASU with 20 points and eight rebounds. Getting his first career start, Creekmur scored a career-high 18 points on five-of-eight shooting from beyond the arc.

Freshman guard Keala King added 10 points and contributed to the team’s great day at the foul line, making five of his six attempts.

After missing 13 foul shots on Thursday, ASU made 14 of their 18 attempts on Saturday.

“We’re going to enjoy the moment,” Sendek said. “I’m really proud of the guys’ effort and togetherness. We’ll get back to work on Monday to prepare for the next game, the best we can.”

Now that it worked once, Smith and Pera may have to make it a habit to crash the pregame meal.

“If that’s what it takes, that will be in order,” Sendek joked. “You try different things; sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. It comes down to guys making plays between the lines.

“Our guys played with great energy. They played with a lot of heart and passion. The line is thin.  That last shot could have gone in and we’d be dealing with a lot of different emotions.”

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