Many expected Arizona State's success this season would be dependant on the play of its three seniors. Yet it's the consistency of sophomore Trent Lockett that has clearly stood above all else for the Sun Devils through the first week of play.
Tied with Alabama-Birmingham at 66-66 and 20.8 seconds left in the game, all eyes were on No. 24 to make something happen.
But he didn't hit the game winner.
"Coach designed a play for me to get the ball at the elbow and kind of get something going towards the basket. Maybe get fouled and go to the line," Lockett said. "My guy did a good job cutting me off. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Ty's guy help. He's a great shooter so I'm going to give him the ball in that situation and he made a huge play for us."
Despite not hitting the game winner, Lockett has been an all-around player thus far. Going 9-fo-13 from inside the arc, Lockett added seven rebounds, five assists, and had only one turnover to his 19 points against the Blazers.
"He kept us in the game, it was his play," Abbott said of the game-winning shot. "He had a lot of energy plays. You know the dunks and things like that kept the crowd in it. He did a great job. He's the reason I was able to hit that shot and he's the reason we have the win right now."
Along with eight rebounds in the opener versus New Mexico, this is the second time in Lockett's career he's grabbed seven or more rebounds in consecutive games.
You'd have to go back to his second and third game as a Sun Devil to find the last time Lockett accomplished the feat.
Against Texas State, Lockett scored 17 points and hauled in seven rebounds but counterbalanced it with a career-high four turnovers. Against TCU, his 11 rebounds was submerged by a 1-for-8 performance from the field. Though Lockett's talent was unquestionable, inconsistency was a hallmark.
In a year span, Lockett worked hard to elevate his game to another level.
After being selected to the Pac-10 all-freshmen team last season, Lockett traveled with seven college players from around the country and assistant coach Lamont Smith to Europe. During the week-and-half tour, Lockett led the team in scoring and had games of 24, 29 and 33 points.
"I feel good about it," Lockett said about his off season work paying off. "Obviously I did put a lot of work in the off season, but our guys are doing a good job of getting me the ball in spots where I like to work and stuff like that."
Leading the team in scoring for the two games played, Lockett said the experience from last season has helped his dominant play.
"Everything was just new to me," Lockett said about last season. "I was going on a spur the moment last year. This year, I got a year under my belt. I know what to expect, and I know what it takes to maintain this kind of play."
After starting last season hot -- Lockett scored double figures in three of the team's first five games -- but ending up occasionally warm and sometimes cool, that consistency would be heavily valuable for the Sun Devils this season.
Newcomers clutch in win
Going four deep off the bench, the newcomers responded with 24 points in a reserve role including 14 from freshman Kyle Cain.
"I couldn't be more pleased with Kyle," coach Herb Sendek said. "He's a true warrior. He plays with great heart and passion and what you see in the game is what you see everyday in practice."
Playing 31 minutes due to foul trouble by sophomore Ruslan Pateev, Cain went toe-to-toe with impressive UAB junior Cameron Moore in the second half. grabbing six rebounds in the win.
Although he went 0-for-4 from the field, freshman Keala King showed energy during his 13 minutes of play. The 6-foot-4 guard managed to grab four rebounds and showed off his nifty ball handles, crossing over a UAB defender and causing him to lose his balance and fall.
Struggling beyond the arc
Uncharacteristic to say the least, the Sun Devils shot 3-for-17 from the three-point line against UAB and are 8-for-31 for the season.
Senior Rihards Kuksiks, one of the top shooters in the country, has struggled more than anyone to find his touch from beyond the arc, going 2-for-11 in the first two games.
"Not everybody is going to be on every game," Lockett said. "I know Rik [Kuksiks] hasn't shot the ball at his best, but I know when it matters he's going to come down when it's crunch time. I mean you can't shoot 100 percent from three. We're not shooting that well, but I know as the season goes on the odds are going work out and we're going to start knocking down threes."