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Arizona State Looks "Sloppy" In Season Opening Win Against Montana State

Head Coach Herb Sendek had few complimentary things to say following Friday afternoon's 78-72 season opening victory over Big Sky opponent Montana State. And who can blame him after his Sun Devil squad produced the most turnovers of any team he's coached since being at Arizona State (22).

"We just didn't take care of the ball anywhere near the way we need to," Sendek said. "I don't think we played very smart." 

Double that with the fact that the Devils got "annihilated" on the boards giving up 17 offensive rebounds and it's easy to see where Sendek's frustration is coming from.

"I was really disappointed with our effort on the glass," Sendek said. "It seems like [Montana State] shot a much higher percentage than 34% from the field because every time they missed, they got another shot, and sometimes a third shot."

And even though the Sun Devils began practicing precisely four weeks prior Friday's game, Sendek refused to use that as excuse responding "it was [Montana State's] first game too."

It wasn't difficult to see that the team was out of sync from the get-go. After shooting 73.% from the field in the second half of last Saturday's exhibition game at Grand Canyon, the Devils came out flat, sinking only 39% of their first half shots. And if it wasn't for Trent Lockett taking control of the offense in the final minutes (13 points, 5-6 shooting in first half), ASU would have shot a paltry 27% (6 of 22). 

"Lockett played an outstanding game today," Sendek said. "He really put us on his shoulders with his toughness."

"I just tried to do whatever the team needed on the floor," Lockett said.

Unfortunately, the offensive funk carried over into the second half, allowing the Bobcats to narrow the 33-21 half time lead with their new found three point stroke. With Montana State breathing down their necks, 41-38, Sendek brought starter Keala King back into the game. The 6'5" do-it-all guard responded almost instantly, totaling up three straight buckets including two big threes that gave the Devils some much-needed breathing room. 

"I don't even look at the scoreboard; I just look at the shot clock," King said. "When they were [coming back] I didn't really look at it as we need to play harder. We just have to play our game."

King had 11 of his 16 points in the second half which provided a much-need boost. However, those big buckets weren't the nail in the coffin as the pesky Bobcats continued to hang around led by junior forward Shawn Reid's 19 points and seven rebounds. But clutch free throw shooting by the Sun Devil big men kept Montana State from ever overtaking the lead.

"We did a very good job at the free throw line, especially from our post spot where [Kyle Cain] went 4-4 and [Ruslan Pateev] went 6-6," Sendek said.

In the end, all was not bad for ASU. They still managed to have all five starters (Chris Colvin, King, Carrick Felix, Lockett, and Kyle Cain) in double figures with Lockett leading the way with his 17 points,10 rebounds and four steals (all team highs). The Devils also managed to keep the tempo of the game in their favor for the most part. The foremost issue was execution as the team's slopiness was on display for a good majority of the 40 minutes. And sure, a win is a win no matter how ugly it may be. But for Sendek knows this type of play can't keep up if the team wants regain that respect that much of their Pac-12 foes lost for them in last year's 12-19 season.

"As the old adage goes, [sometimes] you shoot your own toes off. Right now, we'd be walking around with club feet." 

Well, here's to hoping Sendek and his Sun Devils find their footing before next Tuesday's 6:30 pm game against Pepperdine. 

Other Game Notes:

  • Sendek slightly altered his lineup after Kyle Cain and Ruslan Pateev ran into some serious foul trouble last Saturday at Grand Canyon. In hopes of keeping his two key big men on the floor longer, Sendek started junior Carrick Felix, moving Cain to center and Pateev to the bench. Sendek on the decision - "We just thought it would be better for our rotation...I would like to be in a position that they could play together like they did last week [but] the way Montana State was attacking us with their offense it wasn't easy to go in that direction."
  • Jonathan Gilling, the freshman forward from Denmark, only played three minutes. Sendek regretted that move in the post-game interview saying he "probably should have gotten him back in there" so fans can expect to see more of the swingman's sweet stroke on display.
  • Iowa State transfer Chris Colvin didn't have the best debut as the conductor of the new offense, leading the team with seven turnovers. But Lockett was still quick to come to his defense - "He's a great player. He can create a lot of different opportunities for guys in the lane...guys are just getting used to him."