Basketball openers for ASU, UA men have mixed results

Early-season success is all about how you pick your opponents.

University of Arizona is no doubt feeling good about its opening blow-out against Idaho State, but Arizona State might be questioning the wisdom of taking on Steve Alford and his New Mexico Lobos for its 2010 opener.

The Wildcats ran up a 41-15 lead at halftime and then coasted to the 90-42 win at McKale Center.  Super sophomore, Derrick Williams, connected on 6-of-7 from the field and dropped in 16 points before the game got out of hand and the mop-up crews took over.

Now you know why head coach, Sean Miller, had Williams sitting next to him at the Pac-10 media day in Los Angeles before the season started.  He knew the kid was going to make an impact this year.

Others in double figures included Brendon Lavender (12 points), Solomon Hill (10), and Kyle Fogg (10).

The story was in the stats, as Arizona hit 11 of its 21 three-point attempts and their visitors sunk a single trey in 12 tries.  And on the boards, the Cats were all over the glass, out-rebounding the Bengals 39-24.

But it was a very different story for Herb Sendek and his Sun Devils, who elected to open their season on the road in Albuquerque against the reigning champions of the Mountain West Conference, coming off a 30-win season.

And the Lobos took advantage of being able to play in front of their student crazies in the gym affectionately known as “The Pit”, going on a 20-0 run in the first half and coming out with the 76-62 win.

The Devils’ sophomore guard Trent Lockett, an All-Freshman Pac-10 Team selection last year, got the maroon-and-gold off to a quick start by scoring 10 of their first 13 points and giving the visitors an early 13-7.  But the Lobos settled back down and made their 20-0 run – while ASU suffered a seven-minute dry spell.

Lockett finished with 22 points, a career high, and also snagged eight rebounds, a team high shared with Jamelle McMillan.  Not sure what it says when your top rebounders are both guards.

Sendek, last year’s Pac-10 Coach of the Year,  is trying to blend his returning trio of seniors with a group of sophomores and nine incoming freshmen and will likely take some more games before a regular starting line-up emerges.  He threw 10 players into the fray against the Lobos before halftime even arrived.

He may have to do some tweaking to the defense as well.  His match-up zone defense held opponents to under 60 points on average last year.  The Lobos put 76 up on the scoreboard.

While the Sun Devils are re-grouping before their next outing against UAB on Saturday, there is at least one result they can enjoy from the way the season opened:

A 19-point loss to the Wildcats used to be the largest in Coach Miller’s first year at the helm.  Now that dubious distinction belongs to the Lobos.