Tydides is absolutely correct. Digger is a wimp! But we better not be looking ahead to the Standard Saturday night. Because if we do so we will be dealing with a back to back home loss on Friday which will take away lot of the luster off clowning Digger on Saturday.
Our Ben Ball warriors are going to be in a dog fight this Thursday against a much improved ASU Sun Devils team (14-5, 4-3) which is going to fighting and scratching to put a stop to their 3 game losing streak.
Riding the talent of sensational freshman guard James Harden (who is leading the team scoring 18.8 ppg) the Devils have been enjoying somewhat of a breakout season this year after a tough first season under Coach Herb Sendek (just like Howland's first year at UCLA) in which they finished a record of 8-22 (2-16 in the Pac-10).
However, even last year Bruins were in bruising battles against the Devils. Last year we beat them at Pauley by a score of 60-50. However, that was a tough win in which we fell behind in first half and had to come out strong in second half with a 7-0 run to take a lead since the early part of the game.
The follow up game in Tempe was another brutal one in which we had to rally from a 10 point deficit to escape with a win.
Well this year the Sun Devils look a little different. I already mentioned Harden above. Too bad Bruins got involved a little late in recruiting this local product from Southland, otherwise he'd be dazzling the crowd at Pauley (guess Howland can't win them all ).
Before losing three straight (at Stanford, v. Washington, v. Washington State) the Devils were enjoying a spectacular start to this hoops season (14-2, 4-0) which featured marquee wins over Xavier, Arizona and Oregon). Not bad for a team which finished last season with a record of 8-22.
They are coming off a tough home stand in which they battled away despite dealing with a groin injury suffered by Hardin:
"With that kind of injury," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said, "it only gets worse when you get tired."
Two days later against Washington State, Harden had the ball and a chance to win the game. He drove to the hoop and got neither the basket nor a call from officials, and WSU escaped with a 56-55 win.
"I wanted the ball," said Harden, whose 25-point effort was his 10th 20-point game of the season. "Coach drew up the play. We just didn't come up with the victory. I didn't come up with it."
Harden came up with almost everything else, adding five rebounds, four assists and three steals from his guard position.
They are fourth in the league in scoring defense (59.7 avg/G) and third in the league field goal percentage defense (.397). [See Pac-10 stats].
They are good at disrupting the flow of opponent's offense. They lead the league in steals (averaging 7.05 steals per game). [See Pac-10 stats].
They are also pretty good in taking care of the basketball as they are second in the league in turnover margin and third in the league in assist/TO ration.
And Hardin is not the only solid player in this team. Here is their rotation:
Usual Starters -- F Jeff Pendergraph, G Jerren Shipp, G Ty Abbott, G Jamelle McMillan, G James Harden. Key Subs -- G Derek Glasser; G Antwi Atuahene; G Christian Polk; C Eric Boateng.
-- Junior forward Jeff Pendergraph, who was leading the Pac-10 in field-goal accuracy until recently, is struggling. He totaled 15 points and 13 rebounds in two home games against the Washington schools, and has made only 9 of his 25 shots the past three games.
-- Freshman Ty Abbott bounced back from a 1-for-7 shooting performance against Washington to score 13 points in the loss to WSU.
-- Freshman James Harden has scored double-digits in 13 consecutive games, and has scored at least 16 points in 12 of those.
Love, Luc and our front court will have to keep their eyes on Pendergraph. But I am interested to see how our backcourt comes out this week. We have talked a lot about how our guards appeared step slow this past week and they were not in their usual attacking mode on defense (until late in the game). They are going to have to come out focused against a patient ASU team which as noted above can play their own brand of smart, patient and mistake free basketball. Here is what Coach Howland had to say about them:
Anyway you cut it Bruins are going to be in a dog fight against a team that is now desperate for a win after three straight losses. Our players (and our fans) will make a huge mistake if they over look this ASU team in anticipation of Saturday. I am sure Coach Howland will drill down this message in all of his players going into tomorrow night.