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Husky Men's Basketball

The latest news and analysis on Husky men's hoops.

February 26, 2009 at 9:03 AM

Keys to the game — ASU

Here’s a breakdown of tonight’s gargantuan game against Arizona State:
Records: Washington 20-7, 11-4; ASU 20-5, 10-4. Where: Edmundson Pavilion (10,000). Time: 8 p.m. TV: FSN-NW. Radio: KJR-AM
KEYS TO THE GAME
No. 1: Containing James Harden — The Huskies did this to an extent last time as Harden had just 15 points — more importantly, only five in the first half as UW took control with a 41-29 halftime lead. They did it by putting bigger players on him , leading off with Darnell Gant and also using Quincy Pondexter and Justin Holiday. It’s a strategy UW is likely to employ again though officially they are undecided. “He’s so strong that little guys, he tries to take advantage of and score and get you in foul trouble and get to the line,” Pondexter said. “So we keep rotating guys on him.” Harden is likely to be waiting that strategy this time, however, and will likely try to force more action — he seemed pretty passive early on last time. Also his teammates appear better now at taking advantage when Harden does get a little bottled up. “I think he will be a different player this time,” predicted teammate Jeff Pendergraph. “It happened earlier this season when we played USC, he didn’t have his best game, and he took it kind of personal the next time around (a game ASU won). He won’t try to score 50 but he’s going to try to help us win.”
No. 2: The Brockman-Pendergraph matchup — This is one of the better and more fun individual battles in the Pac-10 between two of the best big men in the conference — tonight will be the ninth meting between the two including a conference tourney matchup two years ago. Pendergraph said he looks forward to playing Jon Brockman. “It seems like we have our own little battle with each other to see who has the most rebounds,” he said. “Most of the games, he’s kicked my butt in that. But it’s always fun to go against someone like that who busts his butt the whole game.” Pendegraph actually got the better of Brockman last time with 21 points and 15 rebounds to 10 and four for Brockman. A similar gap tonight could be harder for UW to overcome.
No. 3: Getting out on the shooters — The biggest key in ASU’s recent five-game winning streak — its longest in conference play since 1995 — has been improved play from some of the complementary players such as Jamelle McMillan, Derek Glasser and Rihards Kuksiks. Kuksiks, a 6-6 forward, had 17 against Arizona, for instance, hitting 5-10 three-pointers. Though last in the Pac-10 in percentage at 33 percent, the Devils really rely on the three-pointer, attempting 306 — other than Oregon’s 311 in one more game, the most of any conference team in Pac-10 play. Harden likes to drive and kick and if guys like Kuksiks are hitting, it makes a big difference for the Devils. UW did a good job defensively last time, holding ASU to 6-23, though some were just wide-open misses. Still, the Huskies have shown a good ability to play the three all season, ranking second in the Pac-10 in three-point FG percentage right now at 33.0 percent, just behind ASU’s 32.8.
No. 4: Hold on to the ball — It’s due in large part to pace of play, but one of the biggest statistical differences between these two teams is turnovers. UW is losing 14.2 in Pac-10 play, mor than any team except Oregon’s 14.4. ASU is losing just 10.5, fewest of any team in the conference. The two teams were even last meeting — each with 11 — and ASU doesn’t necessarily pressure a lot. Still, UW was a little sloppy last weekend, losing a combined 33 in the two games in LA. They need to rein that in a little tonight.
No. 5: Hit some jumpers —- Speaking of ASU’s zone defense, it does allow teams some opportunities on three-pointers — despite ASU leading the conference in three-point defense, teams have tried the fourth-most attempts against the Devils in Pac-10 play. UW coach Lorenzo Romar said ASU’s defense “is definitely not something you just put a bunch of three-point shooters in and win the game. It’s more complex than that.” Still, that doesn’t hurt. UW hit 6-12 threes against ASU in Tempe, 5-9 in the first half as the Huskies built a 41-29 lead. Justin Dentmon was 4-7 against ASU in that game on his way to 30 points. UW will need to hit a few tonight to open things up inside.
Picks to come in a little while.

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