Struggling ASU hosts USC and UCLA this week

Jan 27, 2011, 2:07 AM | Updated: 2:46 am

TEMPE, Ariz. – The Arizona State Sun Devils basketball team will face USC and UCLA at home Thursday and Saturday as they continue a tough conference schedule after defeats to Washington and Washington State last week.

The Sun Devils have been plagued with injuries the last few games, causing leading scorer Trent Lockett along with Jamelle McMillan, Carrick Felix and Brandon Dunson to miss time.

On the Doug and Wolf Show on Sports 620 KTAR Tuesday, Sun Devils Coach Herb Sendek discussed the injury issues and the growing pains of the team, which has struggled to a 9-10 record including a 1-6 record in the Pac-10 so far. ASU has also been forced to use nine different starting line-ups in 19 games.

“Sometimes you are fortunate to have a long run where you are relatively healthy and other times these kinds of things come up and we’ve really just tried to focus each day in practice with the guys who are able to go,” Sendek said.

Sendek said the team is still learning how to balance the mental and physical aspects of the game with a young front court and said the team needs to continue helping each other on defense.

Sendek said he was especially pleased with how senior guard Ty Abbott is contributing to the team.

“He’s played his season best basketball here recently,” Sendek said. “He plays incredibly hard and he plays very smart by and large going back to that mental part.”

“When he is making shots, he gives us another dimension, he’s a tremendous competitor.”

Abbott is averaging 16.8 points per game for the last five games along with 5.6 rebounds and a 51 percent three-point shooting average.

ASU faces USC Thursday night, who is 3-4 in conference play and 11-9 overall. The Sun Devils and Trojans have each won at home the last four seasons with Sendek as head coach.

Sendek said he is concerned about the defensive presence in the front court of USC, which includes 6-foot-10 forwards Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stephenson.

“Having just gone through what seems like a gauntlet of tremendous front court players that line up in the Pac-10 this year, this weekend we play two awesome front courts starting with USC,” Sendek said.

ASU then faces UCLA on Saturday, who is 5-2 in the Pac-10 and 13-6 overall. The Sun Devils have beaten UCLA in three of their last four games.

Sendek said he has seen improvement in the Sun Devils offense as the season has progressed despite the wave of injuries.

“I think our offensive movement continues to get better, I mean we are really making progress in that area, the ball movement, the action, I can see great progress,” Sendek said.

“But at the end of the day it comes down to putting the ball in the basket and on the nights that we do that, we are going to be much more formidable.”

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