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November 21, 2012

Sun Devils remain unblemished

Though he follows nobody on twitter, Arizona State coach Herb Sendek regularly checks the latest college basketball scores on his cell phone and sees upsets rolling in night after night. On Tuesday it was Butler shocking No. 9 North Carolina and Columbia blowing out Villanova.

They're the kinds of results that keep coaches tossing and turning in bed into the wee hours, so Sendek will tell you frankly he's just happy to see his team improve to 3-0 with a 64-53 win over Cornell (1-4) on Tuesday in front of 4,595 at Wells Fargo Arena. The piddling caliber of the opponents to this point? No matter.

"All you have to do is just watch college basketball every night," Sendek said. "There's no such thing as an easy game and if you think that you're being a fool."

A bigger test is coming very soon and Sendek knows it, as his Sun Devils will face 3-0 Arkansas Friday in Las Vegas and a day later take on either Wisconsin or Creighton.

"Feel good about it," Sendek said of the unblemished record. "I think it's been a great start for us, good momentum. We obviously face a great challenge this weekend. It's going to be perfectly timed for our team and tell us more about ourselves but I think we've gotten out of the gates exactly like we wanted to."

For the second game in a row Tuesday, ASU let a lesser opponent hang around well into the second half before opening up a double digit lead late, keyed by a 14-5 run immediately following intermission.

The Sun Devils were never truly challenged thereafter, with Cornell getting no closer than six points in the game's final five and a half minutes.

"I thought we came out with really good energy to start the second half," Sendek said. "That's the first time we've done that. The previous two games our opponents took the upper hand to start the second half."

Freshman point guard Jahii Carson had a game-high 21 points, including 16 in the second half with 11 coming at the free throw line. His back-to-back 20 point efforts give him the same number of 20 point games former Sun Devils Ty Abbott, Kevin Kruger and Jeff Pendergraph had in the entirety of their freshman seasons with the program.

Senior Carrick Felix was the only other Sun Devil in double figures, with 10 points, while junior Jordan Bachynski had eight points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks. He's now averaging 7.3 blocks per game.

ASU's offense may not have been particularly impressive, but its defense generated a Sendek-era best 23 turnovers and the visitors were unable to get a lot of quality shots up at the rim.

"Once again, our defensive effort, for the third consecutive game really presents some outstanding numbers. Almost every defensive number you would consider to be quite favorable," Sendek said. "23 turnovers, nine second shots, four of which were team rebounds, 35 percent from the field, 33 percent from three (point range), we only committed 15 fouls. So every single defensive number on the traditional stat sheet would be something you'd give a plus to if you were grading it."

Cornell led ASU at halftime 25-22 largely due to the Sun Devils' woes from the 3-point line, where they shot 3 of 18 in the period and couldn't get any second chance points due to a lack of success on the offensive glass.

"I thought we were really quick to settle," Sendek said. "I think we had too many possessions where we took a shot on one, maybe two passes, sometimes no passes. A disproportionally high number of our shots came from three and I don't necessarily thought they were giving us the three."

Carson said after listening to what Sendek had to say at halftime he took it upon himself to increase the ball movement and energy in the game's final 20 minutes.

"He said that we were stagnant on offense and getting out-hustled on loose ball plays, 50-50 plays and that we actually got out-rebounded, only had three offensive rebounds in the half," Carson said.


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