When Sean Miller worked on Herb Sendek’s staffs at Miami (Ohio) and N.C. State, Sendek wasn’t quite known for the matchup zone he has run in previous years at ASU.
So he’s hardly surprised that Sendek, in order to take better advantage of 7-foot-2 Jordan Bachynski, is running a solid man-to-man defense this season.
The Sun Devils allow opponents to score 63.5 points, while opponents average 38.4 percent shooting from the field and 32.2 percent from three-point range.
In Pac-12 play, the numbers are even better. ASU is allowing 60.0 points, 36.9 percent shooting, and 25.4 percent three-point shooting.
“Before Herb went to ASU, he was a man-to-man coach and he’s always been a very good defensive coach, and he’s back to that right now,” Miller said today in his weekly news conference. “He probably has a team that fits that better. And on offense he’s taken advantage of (Jahii) Carson, which is smart.”
Carson has the Sun Devils running more often this season, with the ability to penetrate and dish to any number of capable ASU shooters. The Sun Devils are averaging 72.6 points a game, though only 64.2 in their four league games so far.
Carson said on Twitter that he didn’t think there was a better point guard in the Pac-12, and Miller said that it was good to be confident if you can back it up.
"He’s one of the best point guards in our conference and he's statistically backing that up,” Miller said. “If you look at his free-throw attempts (6.1 per game), points per game (17.1) assists (5.2), there aren’t many players who are more productive than he is. He gives them a confidence, like a lot of good point guards do.
“He’s the ultimate guy of making his teammates better. He gets easy baskets and he gets his team easy baskets. He’s the throttle of ASU. It starts with him because when he has a big game it usually means everyone has a big game because he has such a knack of getting in the lane and making big plays for himself and other people. We have great respect for ASU and especially him.”
So how’s all this Carson buzz sitting with Mark Lyons? Well, the Arizona point guard wasn’t one of the players UA selected to make available to the media for the weekly news conference, but he's made it pretty clear this season that he feeds off those rooting against him.
In any case, Solomon Hill spoke for Lyons in response to Carson’s assertion.
“I’m pretty sure Mark is more geared up than anybody for this game,” Hill said. “That’s something that keeps him going in practice, that keeps him more focused in practice and we love that because other guys feed off that. It just all helps in preparation.”
Hill and the other selected interviewee, Nick Johnson, smiled when asked if they used words such as Carson’s to “prod” Lyons.
“Oh no,” Hill said. “Especially an East Coast guy? He’s already ready. He’s one of the more vocal guys in practice. He looks forward to every competition.”
After making a career-high five three-pointers against Oregon State on Saturday, Hill said his confidence has risen from three-point range especially since the middle of last season.
Hill shot 44.2 percent from three-point range last season and is at 44.6 percent this eason after hitting the 5 of 8 at Corvallis.
“If you give me an open look and my teammates set me up, I’m going to take it and knock it down,” Hill said. “But that all comes with how we play. I think Oregon State did a good job of taking some things away. But the three-point shot was open and I think Nick and Mark for the opportunity, and I thank the big guys for getting me open with certain screens.
“Freshman and sophomore years, I really didn’t take those shots. Midway through junior year, I started to shoot more and it became part of my offensive game.”
There's an ESPNU doubleheader tonight, involving the Los Angeles schools that UA will host next week, if you're interested:
OSU at UCLA, 7 p.m.
Oregon at USC, 9 p.m.
Colorado is staying confident after a loss at Washington that left the Buffs at 1-4 in conference play.
The Huskies have redefined themselves as a gritty team that prefers hustle to flash.
Pat Haden says he's surprised at the interest he's received in the USC coaching job.
The L.A. Daily News profiled the resilient Bob Cantu, who is taking over the Trojans for the rest of the season.