Thumbing through the Pacific 10 Conference standings, at first glance, the Arizona State Sun Devils' unattractive position at the bottom has been uncommon recently in Tempe.
After three straight seasons with at least 21 wins, Herb Sendek’s Sun Devils are at the halfway point of the conference season with a distasteful 9-12 record, including a frustrating 1-8 Pac-10 record.
Certainly, any losing record would leave any fan with “bitter beer face,” but the staggering 1-8 record within the conference is cringeworthy.
However, the Sun Devils have not lost their competitive fight.
With UCLA wrapping up the weekend visit by the Los Angeles schools, Arizona State completed the two-game homestand with two losses by a combined three points.
Close losses and nail-biting finishes are not rare for ASU athletics recently, especially after the 2010 Sun Devil football season.
Perhaps the Sun Devils had no business even being within shouting distance of the third-place Bruins after a 15-point deficit twice in the game, yet Sendek’s ASU squad kept battling back.
After only scoring 19 points in the first half, ASU responded with 42 points in the second stanza at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe.
The normally electric three-point shooting of Rihards Kuksiks and Ty Abbott was virtually nonexistent in the first half. Kuksiks could not find his shooting touch and Abbott spent only seven minutes on the court in the first half due to foul problems.
As the Sun Devils began to slowly chip away at UCLA’s lead, ASU began to make the necessary stops on defense and turn away the Bruins' second chances with solid rebounding.
But when a rebound was needed most, three Sun Devils jumped in the air, only to collide with each other as the ball fluttered out of bounds.
ASU looked to secure a precious rebound and have one last chance to win the game in regulation, but it was not meant to be.
The 7,000 fans present witnessed the Sun Devils lose another game in the waning moments. This time, the Bruins won 73-72 in overtime.
With all due respect to both the UCLA Bruins, and for that matter, USC on Thursday night, if ASU connected on even 65 percent of their free throws, the Sun Devils would have two more victories in the win column.
Between the Sun Devils' two games this week versus the Trojans (63-61 loss), and Bruins, ASU connected on 27 of 49 attempted shots from the charity stripe. Free throws are supposed to be the easiest shot in the game, unless you are Shaquille O’Neal.
As the Sun Devils' losing skid now reaches seven games, a look back on the fundamentals that propelled ASU to three straight postseason tournaments is in order. If not, this losing streak looks to extend through the Devils' upcoming road trip to the Bay Area.