TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)—Unable to shake a cold, Ty Abbott barely slept on Friday night and didn’t eat on Saturday morning.
He looked perfectly healthy on Saturday afternoon, scoring 19 points to lead Arizona State to a 77-55 rout of No. 17 Xavier.
“I’ve felt this bad before, but as far as played this good, no way,” said Abbott, who brought a box of tissues to the postgame news conference.
It was ASU’s first home victory over a ranked nonconference opponent since Dec. 20, 1980, when the Sun Devils defeated No. 7 Ohio State. The Sun Devils (7-2) typically load their nonconference schedule with teams from marginal conferences, but it appears they’re ready for the tougher tests that are sure to come in the rugged Pac-10.
After losing 21 straight games to ranked teams, the Sun Devils have won two in a row over Top 25 opponents, with the other coming against No. 22 USC last February.
“How we played today is how we need to play every game,” forward Jeff Pendergraph said. “We know what it is. We’ve done it now. Now it’s time to keep this going and carry this on in Pac-10 (play) and just keep punishing teams like we’re doing right now.”
Pendergraph, a junior, was ASU’s only upper-class starter on Saturday. In what is believed to be a first for ASU, the Sun Devils started four freshmen— guards Abbott, James Harden and Jamelle McMillan and forward Rihards Kuksiks.
Sophomore Jerren Shipp scored 17 points, and Harden added 16 for the Sun Devils.
But the biggest star was Abbott, who went 7-for-10 from the floor, including 5-of-8 from beyond the 3-point arc.
ASU coach Herb Sendek said he never considered resting the ailing Abbott, who averages 9.4 points per game.
“We weren’t going to entertain him not playing at all,” Sendek said. “He’s carried around a box of tissues with him all week. It’s just that time of year when sometimes you’ve just got to tough it out.”
ASU shot 59.5 percent from the floor. The Sun Devils also hit 52.6 percent from beyond the arc.
The Sun Devils played almost as well at the defensive end, clamping down on the Musketeers with a tenacious zone defense. Even when Xavier penetrated, the Sun Devils contested every shot. Xavier shot 30.6 percent from the floor, 22 percent in the second half.
“We lost to a better team,” said Xavier coach Sean Miller, whose team beat ASU by 18 in Cincinnati last December. “They took it to us.”
B.J. Raymond scored 12 points for Xavier (8-2), which snapped a seven-game win streak.
“Their defense was better than our offense, and their offense was better than our defense,” Miller said. “They just wore us down.”
The game matched Miller against Sendek, his former boss at Miami of Ohio and North Carolina State. Early on, it appeared that the student would drub the mentor on his home floor.
The Musketeers hit their first four shots from the field—three from beyond the arc—and jumped out to an 8-0 lead after 90 seconds.
Sendek called timeout and lashed into his players.
“What really made my hair stand up on my head was the fact that we had gone over some of that stuff so many times and we still got caught with our pants down, so to speak,” said Sendek, running his hand over his most bald pate. “So we regrouped and went on a run ourselves.”
The Sun Devils responded with a 12-3 run, and an upset was brewing.
ASU also put together runs of 15-2 later in the first half and 13-5 early in the second.
“We just got outplayed by Arizona State,” Xavier guard Drew Lavender said.
It was all garbage time after Harden nailed a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to put the Sun Devils up 61-44 with 6:40 to play.
“Offensively, we were very efficient when we didn’t turn the basketball over,” said Sendek, noting that the Sun Devils had 16 turnovers. “Other than that, we got pretty good shots.”