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January 15, 2012As Trent Lockett hobbled off the court, one could have easily anticipated his team's chances would follow suit.
A glance at the scoreboard showed Arizona State leading by nine points, but it felt like Lockett's game-ending ankle sprain with 10 minutes left was the equivalent of a reset button.
But then something encouraging happened. The Sun Devils held their ground, maintained no worse than a two possession lead the rest of the way and earned a confidence inspiring 76-66 win over Oregon State Saturday in front of 5,068 at Wells Fargo Arena.
ASU improved to 6-11 overall and 2-3 in the Pac-12 while Oregon State dropped to 11-7 and 1-5 in league play after a 10-2 start to its season.
Since sophomore guard Keala King was suspended (and subsequently dismissed) the Sun Devils altered their offense from a ball screen flow system to more sets and have played a little better, going 2-2 in their last four games.
Saturday, they shared the ball as well as they have all season, the result being 22 assists on 29 made field goals.
"I think right now we're at a place where we don't have any selfishness," ASU coach Herb Sendek said. "Sometimes we may take an ill advised shot or not have the kind of patience we need, but I think we're beyond a place where anybody ever says, 'Well the reason they did that is he was looking for his.' Right now I feel really good about where our team is in terms of togetherness."
After shooting a season-high 61.1 percent to open 2012 at USC, the Sun Devils shot 59.2 percent against the Beavers, including 15 of 24 from the field in a torrid second half (62.5 percent) with sophomore Chanse Creekmur leading the way with a career best 24 points on 8 of 9 from the field and 6 and 7 from the 3-point line.
"It was just one of those nights where you can keep building off the first one and as they start falling you just feel more confident as the game goes on," Creekmur said.
About Creekmur's only flaws of the game were two missed free throws on the front end of 1-and-1s in the game's final minute. But by that point, the shots were only meaningful in that they would have allowed Creekmur to pad this stats considering ASU held a double digit lead.
"He got in the zone and really was making shots for us," Sendek said. "I kidded him at the end that maybe the free throws were too easy for him."
ASU's post players also benefited from its excellent ball sharing, with sophomore Kyle Cain scoring 16 on 8 of 13 from the field, and junior Ruslan Pateev converting 5 of 6 attempts for 10 points.
Oregon State was led by Devon Collier, who had 21 points.
With Lockett watching from the tunnel leading to the team's locker room while standing with the help of crutches, junior guard Chris Colvin helped ASU protect its lead with solid minutes down the stretch. He had six assists in just 13 minutes, including a three-quarter quarter pass to junior Carrick Felix for an And-1 dunk that put ASU ahead 72-60 and all but put the game out of reach for the visitors.
We pulled together at the end and that's what teams do and we're finally starting to figure it out," Creekmur said. "We're starting to pull together, everybody's doing what it takes to win. I think we finally drew a line in the sand. We've got to keep building off this."
Earlier it looked as though the Sun Devils might be undone by the turnover problem that has plagued them all season.
After leading 29-20 with 4:45 left in the first half, the Sun Devils turned the ball over six times leading up to halftime, with Oregon State's 1-3-1 zone causing problems particularly after Lockett went to the bench with three fouls.
The Beavers used a 14-2 run to end the half leading 34-31.
But ASU used its own run, 19-7 to open the second half and were able to maintain a lead through the final buzzer.
"They've been rallying together now for a couple weeks," Sendek said. "They didn't do it just when Trent went down. I think this team for the last couple weeks, even though we haven't always had the results go our way, has really been doing a great job of coming together. I loved the way they talked to each other, they helped each other. We're in the process of really becoming a team, win lose or draw."
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