It is either the best part of college basketball or the most difficult that while on the road after a tough hard fought game, you have to wake up the next day and prepare for another.
It took overtime late Wednesday night to decide the winner between ASU and UCLA and despite the crushing loss, the Sun Devils woke up Thursday ready to work in their pursuit of an NCAA Tournament birth.
“You jst have to get up the next morning and get back to work,” said ASU head coach Herb Sendek after his team’s practice Thursday. “Continue the good fight and continue to grind.”
“You just have to wake up and learn from it,” added ASU senior forward Carrick Felix who had 16 points and 18 rebounds in Wednesday nights loss at UCLA. “We have a lot of basketball left and that’s one thing we have to be is positive.
The Trojans have played well since interim coach Bob Cantu took over after Kevin O’Neill was fired winning five of their last seven games. The most recent, an upset over eleventh ranked Arizona by shooting 61% from the field. The last time the Sun Devils and Trojans faced off, the game also went into overtime with both teams scoring in the 90s.
Sendek has seen what USC is capable off scoring-wise not just from their performance of late, but also from their matchup at Wells Fargo Arena back in January.
“They got 89 again last night, they made three incredible shots to send our first game into overtime,” explained Sendek. “They are playing with a lot of freedom and a lot of confidence right now with good balance between their guards and their front court. So they are a difficult team to defend. Make no mistake about it.”
“They have a lot of guys that are playing good down the stretch now that we are playing them twice,” mentioned Felix. “We just have to make sure we keep things tight on defense and play ASU basketball…It’ll definitely be a battle.”
There has been much debate about ASU’s chances to make into the tournament. The bottom line is they need to win. Win and you’re in. Anything can happen in March and Sendek has seen that first hand just within the Pac-12. Back in 2009 USC was a considered a bubble team at best but caught fire in the Pac-12 tournament which they won and received an automatic bid. Colorado last season did the exact same thing.
Scenarios and predictions can be analyzed but bottom line is ASU needs to find that fire like USC and Colorado did within their conference to control their destiny.
“You have to be playing your best basketball,” Sendek stated. “Guys have to have a lot of fortitude. The (Pac-12) Tournament seems to favor teams that have depth because your games can be spaced less than 24 hours apart and to win it you have to compete at least three days in a row if not four.”
ASU took their licks in the loss Wednesday, but now look to begin that quest to play their best basketball and catch fire Saturday as the take on USC at 1pm from the Galen Center in Los Angeles.