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January 25, 2012No matter how well prepared a team may think it is, sometimes it just doesn't translate into the game. This certainly has been the case for Arizona State this season on multiple occasions, more recently last week's road trip.
After falling last Thursday to Colorado, 69-54, the team had a "terrific round of preparation going into the Utah game," coach Herb Sendek said. The Sun Devils had a walk through Saturday morning in the hotel ballroom, and players decided to meet on their own afterwards to discuss what needed to be done to beat Utah.
When the lights were on and ASU took the court in Salt Lake City, however, it was practically over once it started. Utah jumped to a 12-0 lead in the first 4:03 of the game and never looked back.
"The walk through on Saturday was one of the best we had," ASU sophomore center Jordan Bachynski said. "But for some reason it just didn't translate into the game. I don't know what it was to be honest."
Sendek, though, believed the team didn't do a good job of fighting back and lacked resilience during last week's road trip. The Sun Devils have had this problem all season. ASU is 1-8 when its opposing team reaches 10 points first -- the lone win came against Montana State in the season opener -- compared to 5-5 when it reaches the point total first.
"We have to do a better job of taking a punch," Sendek said. "We took a punch at Colorado. We went into a sold out arena, the place was rocking, the band was booming and they hit us right between the eyes and we didn't take the punch very well. Against Utah, we took another punch for different reasons and, once again, we didn't get up from the standing eight-count quick enough."
According to Sendek, many other things can be attributed to the team's recent woes, most notably having an issue with awareness.
"You say, 'Well, are they aware?,'" he said. "In other words they know what they're doing, but do they have a state of awareness so they can make real time, almost instantaneous, movements and adjustments and reads during the game. And there I would tell you we have a long way to go. We have to be able to transfer our knowledge base into practice, into game conditions better than we are."
Fundamentals have also been an issue for the team, with certain things as simple as triple threat (position) being teaching points by the coaches. On the defensive side, a lack of ball deflections, as well as effort, has been a key reason the Sun Devils have struggled, Sendek said.
"Our deflections are way down; we're only averaging 16.5 in our conference play," he said. "We had an all-time low of nine against Utah Nine in a 40-minute game is almost unheard of. I can't remember a team of ours ever getting nine deflections. Just being out there, the probability of the ball bouncing off your forehead would be higher than a team getting nine deflections in a game."
ASU will try to fix these problems before taking the court Thursday against Washington at Wells Fargo Arena. The Sun Devils will face a team that is balanced in both rebounding and scoring, with three players averaging more than 15 points per game.
"They're a really good team," Sendek said. "They play a physical brand of basketball. They get after it on the defensive end, they're an excellent rebounding team, and they're a talent-rich team.
"Just like any business, if you hit a rough patch it's your choice if you want to walk around with a doomsday flag or you want to walk around like you're Eeyore, but that doesn't make anything better. So we're positive, we're upbeat, we're looking forward to this weekend and can't wait to get to practice."
"I'm a very analytical guy and it kind of goes against how I think to just react and trust myself," he said. "But I found out that when I do trust myself, trust my body, trust it to do what it knows it can do, I'm way better off."
Bachynski said he talks with a sports psychologist once every week or two to help with the mental aspect of the game. He started seeing one at the beginning of the season but stopped for a while. Recently, though, he started back up and has really seen an improvement.
"I think a big thing for me is to remain consistent," Bachynski said. "I know throughout my career I've had spots of brilliance, I've had spots where people are asking, 'Why isn't he on the floor more?' But I think the big reason that I wasn't in the past was because of my consistency. I'll have a great game and then I won't even show up the next game. That's my new challenge, to carry that over to the next practice, next game.
"It's great, and I think it's one of the best things that we've done to go back and begin to honor some of the great and legendary players," Sendek said. "We're thrilled to be able to do it for Fat this Thursday."