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February 11, 2012Biting your fingernails. Chewing with your mouth open. Cracking your knuckles. All are bad habits that are hard to get rid of.
For the Arizona State basketball team, the same could be said about its habit of turning the ball over this season.
ASU lost to Colorado 63-49 Saturday in front of 5,201 at Wells Fargo Arena in a game where, once again, turnovers were a catalyst for defeat. The Sun Devils recorded 18 in the game and weren't able to overcome it on the offensive end, where they shot a mere 35.8 percent from the field.
The loss dropped ASU to 8-17 overall and 4-9 in league play, keeping it as the only major conference school in the nation to not have consecutive wins this season. Colorado improved to 17-8, 9-4 in the Pac-12, with growing hopes of a potential eventual NCAA Tournament at-large berth.
"We could try to make this as complicated and as analytical as we want, and we can look at a lot of different things and turn it upside down and all around," ASU coach Herb Sendek said. "Tonight is a microcosm of our season. We turned the ball over and we have not found a way to consistently get that number to a more manageable size."
Through 13 games of Pac-12 play, ASU has averaged 18 turnovers per game. In Saturday's game, the Sun Devils had 12 by the end of the first half. According to Sendek, inadequate ball movement was also major issue against Colorado, and he attributed several of his team's turnovers to making complicated passes.
"I thought the ball really did stick too much, we didn't have fluid ball movement today," he said. "We had a handful of turnovers where instead of just making the simple play, we tried to thread the needle no different than a quarterback in football who thinks the receiver's open, goes for it. If he makes the play it's heroic, but sometimes the best play is the one you don't make, and we emphasize all the time just making the simple, easy play."
Even though the Sun Devils had a plethora of turnovers in the first half, the game was relatively close before intermission as both teams went back-and-forth in scoring until there was 2:44 left.
Colorado would then go on a 5-0 run and would go into the locker room with a 28-21 lead they wouldn't relinquish the rest of the evening.
An 11-2 run to start the second half stretched Colorado's lead to 13 at 39-26 with 14:47 left, and the Sun Devils wouldn't get closer than eight points through the final buzzer.
ASU sophomore center Jordan Bachynski, who has been playing like a man on a mission of late, was hindered by foul trouble the entire game and would only play 14 minutes. His presence would especially be missed on the defensive end, with Colorado scoring 31 of its 63 points in the paint.
After starting the game with three rebounds and a block within the first three minutes, Bachynski quickly picked up two fouls and was taken out with 15:40 left in the half. He wouldn't see the court again until the start of the second half.
Bachynski went on to pick up his third and fourth fouls by the 18:26 mark of the second half, and would be pulled out of the game once again. The sophomore center re-entered the contest with 12:37 remaining, but was unable to help pull ASU out of its offensive arrhythmia.
"Jordan, who's been playing so much better for us, really never got on track," Sendek said. "He never really got into the flow. His foul trouble, I think, changed some things for us tonight."
Junior guard Trent Lockett, in his second game back since spraining his ankle Jan. 14 and missing six games, agreed.
"He's really helped our team lately, so I think not having him in there hurt us a little bit," Lockett said. "He's got to play smart and he knows that. He'll be fine next game."
Lockett finished the game with 10 points and four rebounds in 32 minutes of play. Looking winded at times, the guard admitted he's still trying to get back to 100 percent and acclimate to game speed.
"My explosiveness isn't there when I'm around the basket, and I'm having a hard time getting passed people, but I'm getting better every day," he said.
Colorado freshman guard Spencer Dinwiddie led all scorers, going 4-for-6 from the floor to finish with 15 points. ASU was led by freshman forward Jonathan Gilling, who scored 11 points.
Colorado outrebounded ASU, 33-31, with seven coming on the offensive end. Those were costly, according to Sendek, as Colorado translated it into 10 second-chance points.
"Even though they only had seven offensive rebounds, it just seemed when they got one they made us pay," he said.
With five games left in the regular season and the Pac-12 tournament on the horizon, Sendek will continue to preach fundamentals to a team that has often forgotten to do basic things like show triple threat position upon catching the ball on the perimeter.
"It all comes down to fundamentals," Sendek said. "Basically everything in our sport does. Everything we do, the air we breathe, everything is a function of fundamentals."