Losses don't get much more deflating than this one folks; the visiting Lumberjacks out-willed, out-played, and out-coached the Sun Devils Saturday night, leaving Tempe with a 69-68 upset victory thanks to Stallon Saldivar's game-winning three. There weren't many highlights for the Devils outside of Keala King and Chanse Creekmur's combined 31 points. Who really stole the show was the man who had the final shot, Saldivar, who finished with a career-high 24 points, including 6 of 8 shooting from behind the arc to go along with his nine assists.
"I thought the Northern Arizona guards really dominated the basketball game," Head Coach Herb Sendek said. "They just completely held the game in the palms of their hands."
While the Saldivar and fellow guard James Douglas (18 points, 7 of 11 shooting) did have very dominate games, this one really came down to the Devils not playing to their strengths. Despite owning a huge height advantage, the Arizona State tied the Lumberjacks in rebounds (27) and points in the paint were hard to come by.
"It was a major emphasis going into the game," Sendek said. "But we didn't get it inside very much."
To their credit, ASU tried to stick with that game plan early with Ruslan Pateev and Trent Lockett getting their first six points near the rim. But after that, the Devils fell right back into their old habits, committing 10 first half turnovers and 17 total throughout the game. Without those, this one's results might be opposite, considering the Devils did manage to shoot 56% from the field and 50% from downtown.
"We converted at a high rate when we didn't turn it over," Sendek said.
An exhausted Sendek also said in the post-game presser that "nobody like the place we're in right now" with only two more games before conference play begins. Sitting at 4-6 despite an extremely soft schedule, angst is now spreading throughout the locker room on what many fans are already calling a lost season in December.
"I'm pretty concerned," Creekmur shared. "We have to fix a lot of things; some guys have to find it in their heart and as a team we have to pull together."
Other Game Notes:
- Guard Chris Colvin returned from his one-game suspension with atrocious results, logging only two minutes and managing to still commit two turnovers in that time span.
- Today marks the fourth straight game in which Lockett has had ten or less points. ASU's emotional leader will have to step it up if this team is going to even be a blip on the Pac-12 radar. In a related note, Carrick Felix played all 40 minutes today despite not having his best game (eight points, 3 of 9 shooting). This team might not be Lockett's forever if he isn't able to break out of this funk.
- It's official: Creekmur is out of his early season slump. Hitting five of his eight three-pointers today, the sophomore sharpshooter is now shooting 63.6% from downtown in his last two games. Sendek on Creekmur: "He's really found his stroke."
- On another positive note, freshman Jonathan Gilling managed to have perhaps his most impressive game of the season, racking up seven points in only eight minutes once Lockett picked up his fourth foul. This is a very inconsistent rotation, but Gilling is ever so slowly solidifying his role.