Herb Sendek and his Sun Devils learned Wednesday that it's all fun and games until the shallowness of your bench is exposed.
Arizona State was run out of the gym by a DePaul team that used its physicality to earn a convincing, 78-61 victory. In the process, the Devils' bench was outscored 37-2 before Sendek finally waved the white flag and sat his starting unit.
Although this simply seemed to most like a case of a superior team having their way with an inferior opponent (which it was), it also gave the rest of the Pac-12 the blueprint to defeating the Devils: a full-court press.
Everyone viewing Wednesday's matchup learned the hard way that Arizona State doesn't currently utilize their depth well enough to deal with a taxing 40 minute basketball game in which they're forced to work to get up and down the court. Even when DePaul was up by 20 late in the second, they still seemed to be the team with more urgency with ASU looking lifeless on the court.
As you might expect, the Devils' defense also suffered because of DePaul's suffocating press. With ASU's starting unit effectively exhausted from trying to fight to the basket, they didn't put up much of a fight on the other end as they allowed the Blue Demons to become their first opponent to shoot over 50% on the season.
Overall, it's pretty clear that Sendek is going to have to give the gentlemen who reside on the pine a little more action. Through the first 10 games of 2012, there has only been two instances in which a reserve not named Chris Colvin has broken the 15-minute barrier (Eric Jacobsen did it in back-to-back games against Sacramento State and Hartford). And on average, Sendek really only uses a seven man rotation with Bo Barnes occasionally sneaking in their for a minute or two from time to time.
A short bench doesn't tend to bite you in the rear over the first few games of a season. But in late January/early February, that kind of strategy tends to have your team playing at about 65%. Obviously the loss of Calaen Robinson for the season hurt Sendek's plans but hopefully he realizes soon that Barnes, Kenny Martin, Ruslan Pateev and Dave Whitmore aren't just there to collect dust. Otherwise, the maroon and gold faithful might be treated to a lot more games like what they saw Wednesday evening.