When the Arizona State men's basketball team kicks off their final road trip of the 2011-2012 season Thursday at Washington (9:00 p.m.) they will be looking for something they that has been hard to come by this season: a conference victory away from Wells Fargo Arena.
In seven road contests this season, the Devils have only produced one win (62-53 at USC on January 5). But there is hope as ASU split their home series with the Washington schools, beating WSU 71-67 and losing by only six points to the Huskies.
Then again, these aren't the same Huskies.
Washington's victory over ASU back in late January was part of a streak that propelled them into a tie for first place in the Pac-12 after winning six of their last seven. The worst news of all though? The Huskies (17-8) still have guard Tony Wroten, who tore up the Devils in their last outing to the tune of 22 points, six rebounds and four assists on 9 of 12 shooting. Wroten has cooled off since then, not breaking the 20-point barrier once while shooting 36.6% from the field. But Head Coach Herb Sendek still knows that he's a national freshman of the year candidate for a reason and would be wise to try to contain him accordingly.
Two things from last game going in the Devils' favor is the fact that they managed to hang tough with a much larger Husky lineup, almost matching them on the glass with 34 rebounds to their 35. The other is that they held Washington (second best in the Pac-12 in PPG) to 22 first half points. Sure, they scored 56 in the second, but one has to think that the addition of Trent Lockett, who missed their first match up, will only tighten their defense.
As for Washington State game on Saturday (6:00 p.m.), the Devils have good reason to be more than just hesitantly confident. Round one between these two marked the first time ASU won the turnover battle all season (16 to 18) and I could definitely see that happening again, especially with how easily the Devils moved the ball against the Cougars' defense (18 assists). Yes, odds are ASU wont get career-highs again like Jonathan Gilling's seven assists or Chris Colvin's 16 points but it's also highly doubtful that Brock Motum gets anywhere close to the career-high 34 points he put up last time around too.
With as well as ASU matches up against Washington State, I'm predicting another split in the series. It would be nice if the WSU game was first so the Devils could build up some confidence but then again, maybe it will be a blessing that it's last. Fans of the maroon and gold certainly know that the Devils could sure use some momentum going into the last three home games of the season.