Game Preview: Arizona State


Who: Washington (17-7, 9-4) vs. Arizona State (9-15, 1-11)

When: Thursday 5:30 PM

Where: Tempe, AZ @ Wells Fargo Arena

TV: None. Available HERE online for free.

by: Griffin Bennett

With the Arizona rematch looming on Saturday, it is hard not to look past the 1-11 Sun Devils. As the Huskies have already found out, there is no team in the Pac-10 that is worth overlooking on the road. Herb Sendek will be the first to tell you that this season has been forgettable. They are caught between eras, as Abbott, McMillan, and Kuksiks are all seniors and the young blood will rise next year. Regardless of what condition Arizona State is in, it was been the internal problems that have cost the Huskies on the road. A lack of defensive intensity and focus doomed the Dawgs in Oregon and they will look to regain their road composure on Thursday. The Sun Devils have lost 8 in a row and the Huskies are in do-or-die mode for the Pac-10 title. Romar has been assuring everyone that he won’t let his team overlook ASU, and I believe him.

It’s a great first stop on the road trip, as a win over the Sun Devils would be their first road win since January 16th against Cal. It would be a great confidence builder heading into Tucson on Saturday, however a loss would, again, be disastrous. Let’s see what the Dawgs will have to deal with from ASU.

Sun Devils 101:

If we were making bets in the pre-season as to who would be leading the Sun Devils in scoring, I think Trent Lockett would have been 10 to 1 odds or higher. The 6’4 sophomore guard is averaging 13.9 ppg and 5.4 rpg. Trent shoots a blistering 52% from the field which is shocking for a guard. He rarely shoots threes and seems to scrap to get his points.

Next up for the Sun Devils is their senior three-some: Ty Abbott, Rihards Kuksiks, and Jamelle McMillan. All three of them have been underwhelming and haven’t made any sort of jump from their junior years. They are averaging 12.9, 9.6, 7.2 points per game respectively. None of them average above 4 rebounds but they all shoot over 38% from beyond the arc. The only other signifcant stat from that bunch is McMillan’s 2.9 assist-to-turnover ratio.

After that, ASU is running their youth movement. Kyle Cain (Fr.), Carrick Felix (So.), Jordan Bachynski (Fr.), Ruslan Pateev (So.), and Keala King (Fr.) make ASU’s future look brighter than 2010/11. Cain is leading the team in rebounding at 5.6 rpg and is a usual starter at power forward. Felix and King were projected to have much larger impacts this season, as well as the entire team. They are deep-ish as they play 9 guys over 10 minutes per game, but some of those subs provide little to no support.

The most difficult aspect in dealing with the Sun Devils is Herb Sendek’s 3-2 zone defense. It has caused trouble for the Huskies in the past and we all are aware of the Dawgs’ struggles against the zone recently. Coach Romar suggested that the Huskies troubles on the road began during the home game against ASU with their lackluster performance. The Sun Devils like to slow it down and grind out wins with their strange defense, however Sendek’s squad doesn’t seem to exactly fit his vision.

Projected Starting Line-up:

G: Jamelle McMillan – 6’2″

G: Ty Abbott – 6’3″

G: Trent Lockett – 6’4″

F: Rihards Kuksiks – 6’6″

F: Kyle Cain – 6’7″

Keys to Victory:

  • Keep Thomas on Abbott the whole game – As promised after the last ASU game, I re-watched it and focused on Thomas’ defense on Abbott and he did indeed shut him down albeit for a few jumpers. Thanks to those of you who pointed that out and I came away actually impressed by the way Thomas was able to squeeze through pick attempts and never let Abbott get a clean look at a shot. Arizona state tries to set tons of screens for Abbott and Thomas was the only one able to stay with him.
  • Feed the Paint: They have a lack of size in their starting line-up and Aziz and MBA should be able score at will. Bachynski and Pateev are both 7+ footers off the bench, but they lack any sort of skill yet. MBA should be able to match his 30 point outing that he had last time against ASU.
  • Wing Movement – As Percy pointed out in out interview, the wings weren’t doing a good enough job of moving off of the ball as well as with it. Instead of settling for contested jumpers, Holday, Suggs, Ross, and Wilcox should try to mix up their game with more dribble penetrations to dismantle the Sun Devils’ zone.
  • Rebounding and Turnovers – The standard keys to every game, but against a zone with smaller opponents they become even more important. The Huskies need to have 10+ rebounds more than Arizona State and limit themselves to under 10 turnovers against the zone.


As for as the Huskies are concerned, they’re on a mission to regain what is rightfully theirs: the Pac-10 title. Instead of looking over this game, Romar is preaching that it is more of a spring board into Tucson on Saturday. The better they do against Arizona State, the more confidence they will have against Arizona. The one factor that no one can predict is whether the dominant Husky team from Hec-Ed or the shaky road version will show up. I hope that they have worked through the kinks and have righted the ship, however I’m not 100% confident. If this game was at home, I’d envision a 20+ point victory but until I see a good road win I can’t predict that on Thursday. Huskies win 82-73.