Arizona State hasn’t played since an ugly win over its in-state rival last week. The Sun Devils hope their sudden struggles on offense disappeared during the layoff.
In their first game in eight days, the 14th-ranked Sun Devils look to recapture their high-scoring form when they host Washington State on Thursday.
Arizona State (16-3, 5-2 Pac-10) is tied for second place in the conference with California and UCLA, and appears to be gaining some momentum after a couple of big wins.
The Sun Devils defeated Arizona 53-47 in Tucson last Wednesday, four days after rallying from 11 points down with less than eight minutes left to beat then-No. 9 UCLA 61-58 in overtime at Pauley Pavilion.
“I definitely think our team’s starting to mature and come every single game,” said Arizona State point guard Derek Glasser, who scored 13 points and hit two key 3-pointers down the stretch against the Wildcats. “These are two big games for us. We’ve just got to carry this into next week.”
To do so, the Sun Devils need to regain their offensive rhythm.
Arizona State was one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation through its first 16 games, averaging 75.6 points on 51.9 percent shooting. The Sun Devils, though, are averaging 54.3 points on 36.1 percent shooting in their last three contests.
Arizona State defeated Arizona despite shooting 28.6 percent from the floor and going 5-of-28 from 3-point range. The Sun Devils won with defense, limiting the Wildcats to 29.8 percent from the field and 2-for-16 from beyond the arc.
“We have been improving a lot (on the defensive end) and once our offense catches up, we’re going to be a great team,” said guard James Harden, who averages a conference-best 22.0 points.
That catch-up might not happen Thursday, though, as Washington State leads the Pac-10 in scoring defense (52.5 ppg) and field-goal percentage defense (36.9).
The Cougars (11-8, 3-4) have also won four straight over the Sun Devils since a 68-55 loss in Tempe on March 4, 2006.
Arizona State, 8-0 at home this season, has lost by one point in each of its last two games against Washington State at Wells Fargo Arena.
Harden had 25 points in the Sun Devils’ 56-55 home loss to the Cougars last Jan. 26, but managed just 10 on 3-of-11 shooting in Arizona State’s 59-47 defeat at Washington State on Feb. 21.
Arizona State senior Jeff Pendergraph, who had 11 points and a season-high 14 rebounds last Wednesday, didn’t have much success against Washington State last season, averaging 7.0 points in the two games. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 17.0 points in two contests versus the Cougars in 2006-07.
Washington State is coming off Saturday’s 46-44 loss to Southern California, its second straight defeat after winning three in a row. The Cougars held the Trojans to 35.1 percent shooting, but made 27.5 percent from the floor in their worst shooting performance since hitting 26.5 percent in a 67-37 loss at Oregon on Feb. 18, 2006.
Leading scorer Taylor Rochestie was held to six points - more than six below his average.
“It’s frustrating,” Washington State coach Tony Bennett said. “When you go 14-for-51, you are not going to win many games.
“I just keep telling them, ‘you’ve got to be the best team you can be.’ We don’t know what that is yet, but whatever it is, that’s what we have to strive to be.”
The Cougars have lost all four games against Top 25 opponents this season, and have one victory in their last 10 matchups with ranked teams.