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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Battle of the beards

    ASU guard James Harden drives to the hoop during a 53-47 Sun Devil win over Arizona in McKale Center on Jan. 21. Harden is one of several players who is growing a win-streak beard.
    ASU guard James Harden drives to the hoop during a 53-47 Sun Devil win over Arizona in McKale Center on Jan. 21. Harden is one of several players who is growing a win-streak beard.

    Opponent Analysis

    One team is going to be shaving Sunday night.

    If it can’t come out of Wells Fargo Arena with a win Sunday night, maybe the Arizona men’s basketball team will feel pressured to bring out the razors, after many players and coaches have grown facial hair during the Wildcats’ current seven-game win streak.

    Or, maybe the Sun Devils, who are on a four-game winning streak, will have a somber Schick shave-fest if they can’t record their fourth straight win against Arizona.

    “”Coach wants me to trim it down a little bit,”” ASU’s fuzzy-faced guard James Harden said of his beard during a press conference this week. “”But I said, ‘Not right now, give me a couple more weeks; we’re doing good with this beard.'””

    The beard is certainly working for Harden, the Pacific 10 Conference’s leading scorer, who averages 21.3 points per game. The guard, who was shown on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s college basketball preview with a thin goatee, has an average slightly better than the game-high 21 points he put up against the Wildcats in McKale Center last month.

    “”It’s been growing so fast,”” Harden said. “”I just said, ‘Forget it,’ and let it grow out. I’ve seen (Los Angeles Clippers guard) Baron Davis with the thick beard, so I just said, ‘Why not try it?'””

    Chase Budinger has the most significant beard on the Wildcat squad, and is matched by teammates Zane Johnson and Jordan Hill. Starting UA guard Kyle Fogg, however, helps draw a similarity to the Sun Devils.

    “”(My teammates) are trying to get it as well,”” Harden said. “”(Guard) Jerren (Shipp) can’t get it – he has a baby face, and Ty (Abbott) is trying to get it as well. Derek (Glasser) can get his and Jeff (Pendergraph) is trying to get his, but for some of the guys, it just won’t happen.””

    Whether Pendergraph can grow a beard, however, is irrelevant. The 6-foot-9 forward is averaging 13.7 points and 8 rebounds per game this season.

    He graduated in December with a degree in economics, and is known for his raw emotion on the court as much as Harden is for his beard. But ASU head coach Herb Sendek, who turns 46 Sunday, wants to make sure Pendergraph knows the difference between emotion and passion.

    “”We talk about the difference between being emotional and being passionate,”” Sendek said in a press conference this week. “”As you compete, emotion isn’t nearly as much your friend as passion. We would like Jeff’s energy to be manifested in a passionate way, rather than an emotional way, and he has made great progress in that area.””

    Maybe more than an in-state rivalry, this game’s importance has been elevated because of each team’s push toward the top of the Pac-10 and into the postseason.

    After being snubbed when it came to an NCAA Tournament bid last season with a 19-12 record at the end of the year, the Sun Devils have an extra edge to them this season.

    ASU comes off a sweep of the Los Angeles schools last weekend, successfully defeating a UCLA team that hasn’t lost a “”front end”” Pac-10 weekend game since 2005.

    “”I can’t remember the last year I’ve been part of any conference, going into the last week of the season,”” Sendek said, “”where one game couldn’t separate you from third to seventh, from second to eighth, from first to fifth, from fourth to ninth.””

    Who’s got the shaving cream ready?

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