Maybe it’s the cold, rainy weather. Or, it could be the rabid fans in the stands. And playing on the road is never easy. Whatever the reason, Arizona State men’s basketball has traditionally struggled when traveling to face Pac-12 rivals Washington State and Washington.
This season, ASU hopes to reverse its fortunes and come home from the Pacific Northwest with a pair of victories. The Sun Devils (16-4, 5-2 Pac-12) enter tonight’s game at Washington State as a surprise contender in the Pac-12 conference race. They will meet the Washington Huskies in Seattle on Saturday.
No one — and I mean no one — predicted Arizona State would be in this position at mid-point of the 2012-2013 campaign.
Many ASU fans are even uttering the words “NCAA tournament” when discussing their team’s prospects for the post-season.
If the Sun Devils beat Washington State, they would improve to 6-2 in conference play for the first time since the 1993-94 season. Coach Herb Sendek’s squad is coming off an impressive 78-60 win against UCLA at Wells Fargo Arena last Saturday, and optimism about the Sun Devil hoops program hasn’t been this high in years.
Yet, Sendek urges caution for those looking ahead to the inaugural Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament running March 13-16, 2013, at the MGM Grand hotel-casino in Las Vegas.
“There’s no easy game on our schedule,” Sendek said. “For those of you who follow the sport, you know as well as I do we face one hell of a challenge this weekend going on the road to the Pacific Northwest.”
He added, “Make no mistake about it, we’re going to have to be really, really good to win.”
A few facts about the ASU-Washington State series:
• Thursday marks the 72nd all-time meeting between the Sun Devils and Cougars.
• WSU leads the series, 22-12 at home, while Arizona State leads at Tempe, 23-13 and 1-0 at neutral sites.
• The Cougars have won eight of the last nine matchups with the Sun Devils at Pullman, including the last two.
• Over the last two seasons, ASU and WSU have split the season series with the home team coming out victorious.
• WSU head coach Ken Bone is 3-4 all-time against the Sun Devils as a head coach and 2-4 as coach of the Cougars.
• Bone led Portland State to a 71-67 victory over ASU during the 2006-07 season.
• Last season WSU fell to Arizona State, 71-67, Jan. 28 at Tempe, then defeated ASU, 72-50, Feb. 18 at Pullman.
• In the first meeting, WSU forward Brock Motum scored a career-high 34 points in the loss, reaching the 30-point plateau for the first time.