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January 7, 2011

Sun Devils drop Pac-10 home opener

Arizona State's chances for a win in its home Pac-10 opener diminished Thursday before the game even began.

After saying his lingering groin strain wasn't a major issue during Tuesday's weekly press conference, senior Jamelle McMillan didn't play due to the injury.

It turned out to be a pretty big deal after all.

The Sun Devils got zero points, one assist and six turnovers at the position between junior replacement starter Brandon Dunson and freshman Keala King in a 55-41 loss to Stanford in front of 6,660 at Wells Fargo Arena.

The loss dropped ASU to 8-6 overall and 1-2 in the Pac-10 while Stanford improved to 9-4 and 2-0.

"It always hurts when you lose your point guard," senior Ty Abbott said. "It showed."

Without McMillan, ASU had no rhythm or continuity on its offensive end for the most part on the evening, leading to the team's worst scoring output and 3-point shooting effort (1-of-14) on the season.

"Obviously we really struggled on offense in every possible way this evening," ASU coach Herb Sendek said. "I think it's a really dangerous road to go around if you want to start attributing our team's play to the absence of any one player. That's something we have to be able to respond to and the guys who are in the lineup have to step up, not one man for him but collectively in a player's absence.

"We had 12 first half turnovers, did a much better job with only three in the second half but we really shot ourselves in the foot with the first half turnovers and like we've talked about seemingly from the beginning, we just have to continue to really work to make each other better on offense and help each other get shots."

After falling behind early, the Sun Devils closed their deficit to within one basket on multiple occasions throughout the game but were unable to re-take the lead in what was nearly a wire-to-wire win for the Cardinal.

ASU used an 11-0 run near the end of the first half to trail 25-23 at intermission, and came within a point at 32-31 at the 15:07 mark of the second half. But Stanford outscored ASU 23-10 the rest of the way as the Sun Devils managed just four field goals during the span.

Some potentially good signs leading up to the game and on the heels of an important win on the road at Oregon Saturday didn't translate to a strong showing.

"I was really encouraged with our practice this week," Sendek said. "I think our team improved. I think we had a good week and got better. We had excellent practices but we didn't play that way in the game tonight especially on offense."

Junior Trent Lockett, playing for the first time in the Pac-10 after a toe injury kept him out of ASU's first two games, had 10 points as did sophomores Ruslan Pateev and Carrick Felix off the bench.

ASU's two leading scorers from last season, seniors Ty Abbott and Rihards Kuksiks made just one field goal apiece and Abbott said following the game he wasn't pleased with the quality of shots the team was getting.

"As a team, we have to do a better job of getting him shots," Lockett said of Abbott. "Finding his man and screening him and getting him the ball where he likes it."


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