For Arizona State’s Herb Sendek, this afternoon’s basketball game with Northern Arizona must seem like deja vu. But not the good kind.
The Lumberjacks were the first opponent for the ASU head coach when he took over the Sun Devil program for the 2006-07 season. NAU won that game, 75-71.
(*Update: As we suspected, this one was close throughout; no more than eight points separated the teams at any one time. Sendek is now 0-2 against NAU, as the Jacks pulled out a squeaker, 69-68, thanks to a 3-pointer by Stallon Saldiver with less than one tick left on the game clock. James Douglas led the assault on the Sun Devils, scoring 18 points.)
For the Jacks’ head coach, Dave Brown, this game presents a unique opportunity.
Brown is the interim coach who took over just one game ago when Mike Adras suddenly resigned. The 70-year-old former woman’s head coach at the Flagstaff school knows he’s just keeping the seat warm while AD Jim Fallis looks for another permanent replacement for Adras. But he’s making the most of it.
The one game that Brown just added to his lengthy coaching resume was a win against Cal State Bakersfield. It was a huge boost to the team’s sagging confidence.
The Cal State victory was the first this season against a Division I school, as the Jacks got off to a disappointing 2-7 start. Not only did they win their first game under a new coach, but they doubled the point output from their previous game, beating the Roadrunners, 80-67.
On the other side of the equation is a slumping ASU team that is still trying to find its mojo. This is where the opportunity comes in.
The Devils haven’t been able to put back-to-back wins together all season and narrowly escaped a loss to North Dakota State in their last game when Carrick Felix hit a three-point shot at the buzzer for a 60-57 win.
The win over NDSU, which plays in the Summit League, followed a 69-61 loss to the University of Nevada, which plays in the Western Athletic Conference.
But the Sun Devils play with the big boys in the Pac-12 Conference. Bigger things are expected of Pac-12 schools. Safe to say, ASU is underachieving this year.
And that’s good for Brown and his crew, who are definitely on the uptick.
But the Jacks don’t play well on the road – with the exception of the Cal State game. They’ve lost all six of their other road games and are generally plagued with poor shooting (36 percent) and turnovers (18 per game) when away from Flag.
They play ASU on the road.
The only reasonably accurate gauge of today’s match-up might be found in a similar opponent for the two Arizona schools. North Dakota State, which just lost to ASU by three, beat NAU by 12 earlier in the season.
Sounds like a close game brewing today at Wells Fargo Arena.
(Photo: NAU Athletics)