Pac-10 Men's Showdown: Huskies vs. Sun Devils
When Washington and Arizona State face off Thursday night, Hec Ed will be "wild and crazy," Huskies senior Jon Brockman predicts.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Arizona St. @ UW, 8 p.m., FSN
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The Arizona State Sun Devils will walk into an Edmundson Pavilion tonight that figures to be as unwelcoming as a 40-degree pool. As raucous as a frat party at 2 a.m.
"It's going to be wild and crazy," said an expectant Jon Brockman, who called tonight's game between the top two teams in the Pac-10 as big as any he has played for the Huskies.
But don't figure the Sun Devils to be intimidated.
Arizona State is 5-2 on the road this season, having already won at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, Arizona's McKale Center, Oregon's Mac Court and Stanford's Maples Pavilion.
In fact, take out a 48-hour homestretch when the Sun Devils were defeated handily by WSU and Washington and ASU might be looking tonight to sew up the conference title, not just take a step toward winning it.
"I don't know what happened then," ASU center Jeff Pendergraph said of the losses to WSU and UW, the latter by an 84-71 count. "It was just a very long weekend."
But one that helped set the stage for tonight's 8 p.m. showdown: Washington leads the Pac-10 at 11-4, ASU is 10-4.
The Sun Devils have won all five games they have played since losing to UW, with some citing the lost weekend against the Washington schools as a turning point.
The day after the loss to the Huskies, ASU players and coaches gathered, a meeting at which guard Jamelle McMillan said "we decided enough is enough. We had to go in and reestablish ourselves and figure out what our purpose was, what we wanted out of the season."
What they want is the same thing as the Huskies — the Pac-10 title. While UW shared conference titles in 1984-85 — last winning one outright in 1953 — ASU has never captured one, and hasn't finished higher than third since 1981.
But third-year coach Herb Sendek, who arrived from North Carolina State, has assembled a contender built around the 6-9 Pendergraph — the only holdover from previous coach Rob Evans — and sophomore James Harden, a burly 6-5 guard regarded as the front-runner for conference player of the year.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, who tried hard to recruit Harden and calls him one of the players he most regrets losing, says the sophomore "is a potential NBA All-Star."
In the first meeting in Tempe on Jan. 31, UW used a variety of big players — Darnell Gant, Justin Holiday and Quincy Pondexter — to try to keep Harden in check, a strategy the Huskies might try again.
Forced to give up the ball, Harden had a game-high five assists but scored just 15 points, six below his average, a tradeoff the Huskies seemed happy to make as ASU was just 6 of 23 from three-point range.
But since then, Harden has received more help from his teammates. Arizona State has also turned up the defensive heat, holding its past five opponents to an average of 56.6 points — or just more than one more than UW guards Justin Dentmon (30) and Isaiah Thomas (25) combined to score in Tempe.
The win in Tempe was part of a stretch of six of eight on the road for UW. The Huskies were 5-3 during that stretch, moving into sole possession of first place, Washington plays its final three Pac-10 games at home, where it is 14-1 this season, starting with the revived Sun Devils.
"They are going for the same thing we are going for," said UW guard Venoy Overton. "We know they believe they can win and we believe we can win, so it's going to be a fight."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 10:18 PM
Washington State's Klay Thompson will play Thursday against Huskies
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