The Sun Devil's leader on the court, Trent Lockett, was no where to be found in Wednesday night's 69-61 loss to the visiting Wolf Pack, connecting on only one of his five shot attempts for four points and five rebounds. Carrick Felix and Kyle Cain did all they could to carry the team with 15 and 14 points respectively including a team-high 10 rebounds from Cain but ultimately Deonte Burton's 28 points and execution from the free throw line (draining 13 of his 15 attempts alone) were too much for Arizona State to overcome.
"I was once again disappointed in our team's play this evening," head coach Herb Sendek said post-game. "We've got to be tenacious and simultaneously smart. We were neither."
And that last statement was most evident in the early going. From the opening tip, it seemed that Arizona State were going to have difficult time finding the bottom of the net. That, along with three sloppy turnovers by Keala King had the Devils down by as much as 11 before the 10 minute mark of the first half. Then, seemingly out of no where, ASU turned it on, going on a 13-0 run that helped the Sun Devils to enter the locker room with a 29-27 lead.
"We played with more energy," Sendek said. "The guys played hard for a few minutes."
Arizona State managed to keep that energy up for the opening minutes of the second half, extending their lead by as much as six. But eventually, that pesky turnover problem returned. The Devils committed 10 second half turnovers with King compiling seven throughout the game (a stat that King later apologized for in a post-game tweet).
"We victimized ourselves with inexcusable turnovers," Sendek said. "I've seen dodge ball games at gym class where they take better care of the ball."
Honestly though, even with the 16 turnovers in the game, the Devils still had very good chance at the end to surmount a deficit that was as large as eight with a King three-pointer that cut the lead to 65-61. But some questionable shot selection in the waning seconds cost ASU a chance stealing back the game.
"I thought our shot selection was as bad as it's been all year," Sendek said. "I don't think we played smart basketball."
Despite all those aforementioned issues, one has to wonder if the results of this game could have been different if Lockett just came a few points and boards closer to his season averages entering this game of 16.3 and eight. While this one is by no means all on Lockett's shoulder's this marks his second straight off game in nail-bitter (Lockett had only nine points and four rebounds in last Saturday's win against Tulsa). When asked if the junior guard might be hurt though, Sendek quickly denied that possibility saying "he [just] didn't have his normal game tonight."
What was most frustrating to Sendek though was his team's performance Wednesday night following their big road win against Tulsa (which he called the best win of the season).
"I was really, really encouraged after the Tulsa game," Sendek said. "As good as we were Saturday, we were that much worse today."
Hopefully the Sendek and the boys will be able to take out their frustrations on North Dakota State Saturday evening when the 7-1 Bison roll into town.