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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Sun Devils advance to Tournament championship game

    No. 4 ASU 75, No. 1 Washington 65

    LOS ANGELES – For a few moments, it seemed like Aubrey Coleman was in the building.

    A physical altercation turned into a mighty comeback.

    When Coleman, a Houston guard, stepped on the face of UA wing Chase Budinger on Jan. 24, it sparked a wild comeback for the Wildcats, who trailed the Cougars by 11 points when the incident occurred. Arizona won the game in overtime and used the incident to begin a seven-game winning streak.

    But when Washington guard Venoy Overton was knocked to the ground in the second half of ASU’s game against Washington in the semifinals of the Pacific 10 Conference men’s basketball tournament, the No. 1 seeded Huskies’ comeback wasn’t enough, as they still lost 75-65 to No. 4 seeded ASU.

    “”It was just a great competitive game,”” said ASU guard James Harden.

    With 13:48 left in the game, Harden made a layup and was fouled by Quincy Pondexter in the process and fell.

    When he got up, Harden chest-bumped Overton. On his way down, Overton pulled Harden’s Jersey. When Overton went to get up again, ASU guard Derek Glasser was standing over him.

    A scuffle among all players on the court ensued, causing the head coaches for the Sun Devils (24-8, 13-7 Pac-10) and the Huskies (25-8, 15-5 Pac-10) to come onto the court.

    After a short delay and a discussion among the referees, Harden, Overton and Glasser were all given technical fouls.

    Harden was awarded a foul shot and missed.

    Dentmon attempted the free throw shots for Pondexter and made 1-of-2, making the score 48-36 in ASU’s favor.

    With 8:45 left, UW big man Jon Brockman converted on a 3-point play, cutting ASU’s lead to 54-53. Point guard Isaiah Thomas put the Huskies ahead 55-54 with a fast-break layup just 31 seconds later.

    “”Washington is a great team,”” said Harden, who led all scorers with 24 points on 7-for-13 shooting. “”We knew they were going to make a run. Like I said, all we had to do was keep our composure and just settle down.””

    And that they did.

    With a pair of free throws at the 8-minute mark, senior Jeff Pendergraph put the Sun Devils ahead for good.

    The win advanced ASU to the finals of the Pac-10 Tournament – a large feat considering the Devils had lost six consecutive games since 2002 coming into the season.

    “”We just talked about maintaining our poise and composure and giving great effort,”” said ASU head coach Herb Sendek. “”We talked about the need to try to get some stops, because it seemed like Washington was scoring every single time down the floor.””

    The first half wasn’t so pretty for either team, though.

    Washington shot a frigid 23.3 percent (7-for-30) from the floor in the first half.

    After making just four field goals in the opening 10 minutes, the Sun Devils finished out the opening 20 minutes with a respectable 48.4 percent shooting margin (15-for-31).

    The Sun Devils didn’t score until James Harden dropped in a layup 3:10 into the game, making the score 6-2 in the Huskies’ favor.

    The score didn’t change for 3:22, when ASU guard Ty Abbot drained a 3 from the left side at the 16:28 mark.

    A Pendergraph jumper and a Jerren Shipp 3-pointer gave ASU ifs first lead of the game, 12-11, with just under 10 minutes to go in the first half.

    The Sun Devils didn’t look back going up by as many as 21 points in the first half, and went into halftime leading 38-21, despite a four-point play by Washington guard Justin Dentmon with 1.5 seconds left in the half.

    “”We had the lead in large part at the half because of our defense,”” Sendek said. “”It had evaporated, so we talked about hunkering down on defense and just maintaining our composure.””

    ASU went on an 11-0 run that was capped by two Harden layups – registering four of his 15 first-half points – which put the Sun Devils ahead 18-11.

    With just over 6 minutes to go in the first half, Washington’s fatigue from a Thursday night game against Stanford showed, as Isiah Thomas went to the free throw line. His first shot was a complete air ball – an uncharacteristic trait for the freshman who makes slightly less than 70 percent of his free throws.

    The Sun Devils were sluggish as well, but Harden said the team’s conditioning program has prepared them to play against either UCLA or USC in the tournament’s championship game Saturday afternoon.

    “”We are conditioned to play 40 minutes each game,”” Harden said.

    With the win, the Sun Devils have positioned themselves for a good spot in the NCAA Tournament, which ASU didn’t make it into last season.

    Pendergraph said, however, that the team won’t be focused on that tournament until this one is finished.

    “”We aren’t really looking too far ahead,”” he said. “”That’s not how you win championships. Right now we’re real excited to be going to the championship, but it does feel a lot better to know at the end of (Saturday), regardless, we are going to be kind of comfortable on Selection Sunday, not gritting our teeth the whole time and biting our nails. It’s a good feeling.””

    And 1

    This game was ASU’s 10th in California this season. The Sun Devils are now 7-3 in the Golden State.

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