UW men wary not only of ASU, but law of averages
Few numbers about Arizona State, Washington's opponent tonight, inspire fear. The Sun Devils rank near the bottom of many key Pac-10 statistical...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Few numbers about Arizona State, Washington's opponent tonight, inspire fear.
The Sun Devils rank near the bottom of many key Pac-10 statistical categories and are dead last in scoring, field-goal percentage and scoring margin.
Even their main calling card — that they allow only 63.8 points per game — is more a function of style than substance. The Sun Devils are just seventh in field-goal percentage defense.
Maybe the scariest number is this: 0-9. That's ASU's conference record before it hosts UW tonight at 6 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena.
But it's far from comforting opponents. Instead, it elicits this ominous thought: The Sun Devils have to win a game at some point, don't they?
Since the Pac-10 welcomed its final two teams for the 1978-79 season, no team has gone winless through a conference season. Four teams came close, though, finishing 1-17, with two not pulling out a win until their 15th game.
With each game, Arizona State is either one step closer to an inevitable win or to infamy.
WSU men @ Arizona, 5:30 p.m., FSN
UW men @ Arizona St., 6 p.m., no TV
"It's on our minds," said Sun Devils forward Jeff Pendergraph of a possible winless conference season. "But we're not worried about it. We can only worry about what we can do and that we just need to play our game and make sure that we are doing all the things we need to do to be successful."
That may sound like the politically correct thing to say, but Arizona State coaches insist the players are walking that talk in practice.
"I don't think anybody walks around here right now feeling real good about themselves," said assistant coach Archie Miller, who followed new head coach Herb Sendek from North Carolina State. "But there's also a real edge about the way we are working. It's a one-game season for us every single day. That's the way we are approaching it. These guys show no signs at all of going in the wrong direction."
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, whose team is 0-6 away from home, worries that the Sun Devils are close to turning a corner, pointing out the close margins in many games.
"I just think they are jelling with each game," Romar said.
Arizona State has been particularly close at home, where its deliberate style seems most effective — losing to California in overtime, and to Oregon by five. And it's not as if the Huskies dominated the Sun Devils in Seattle last month, pulling away late for a 64-53 win.
Sendek was lured away after 10 years at North Carolina State last spring to replace the fired Rob Evans, who had just two winning conference records in eight years and was 5-13 last season.
When Sendek took over, Arizona State was considered a possible sleeper this season.
But then leading scorer Kevin Kruger left to play his final season for his father, Lon, at UNLV, taking advantage of a since-overturned rule allowing players to transfer without having to sit out if they graduate in four years. And the team's second-leading scorer, Bryson Krueger, was dismissed after being arrested for illegal possession of guns and drugs.
Those two combined for 129 three-pointers last season — Arizona State has just 130 as a team this season — and their absence allows foes to concentrate on defending Pendergraph, a talented sophomore averaging 12.7 points and 8.8 rebounds.
"It would have taken a lot of pressure off people in the post," Pendergraph said.
Six other players who could have been members of this year's team have also left the program, including forward Wil Fameni, now a starter at Virginia Commonwealth, which is 19-3.
With little experience, Sendek has had to turn to freshmen. Three started Arizona State's 71-47 loss at Arizona last week: guards Derek Glasser, Christian Polk and Jerren Shipp, the younger brother of UCLA's Josh Shipp. Glasser, who had been expected to walk on at USC before getting a scholarship at Arizona State last summer, leads the team in average minutes played at 35.3.
Long term, people are optimistic, citing Sendek's track record at N.C. State — the team won at least one NCAA tournament game each of the last three years — and a highly regarded recruiting class next fall that includes O'Dea High School's Jamelle McMillan.
"It's always frustrating not to win," said Pendergraph. "But we're not giving up yet. We're working hard in practice every day trying to get that first win."
|At a loss in the Pac-10|
|Washington's opponent tonight, Arizona State, is 0-9 through the first half of Pac-10 play. Since the Pac-10 expanded to 10 teams in 1978, no team has gone winless; just four won only one game:|
The year before Lute Olson took over, Arizona went 4-24 overall, and its only conference win was 74-73 at home against a .500 Stanford team in the 15th game of the Pac-10 schedule. It was the only year Ben Lindsey coached UA, for good reason.
Another team that avoided infamy by a mere point. In Kelvin Sampson's third year, the Cougars won their Pac-10 opener at home against USC, 68-67. Washington State also lost a one-point overtime decision at Washington.
In Paul Graham's first season, WSU's only win came in overtime at home against Cal, 81-78, in the 15th game of the conference season.
In Graham's third season, Washington State's only win came against the rival Huskies, 81-79, 10 games into the conference season.