Ducks can't contain Harden as No. 23 Arizona St. ends slump

EUGENE, Ore. -- Arizona State found itself in a funk after losing home games to Washington and Washington State last week.

The Sun Devils (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) wanted to make sure it didn't ruin their dreams and season, and they rebounded in style Thursday night as sophomore guard James Harden scored 36 points to lead a 66-57 victory over Oregon.

"We couldn't come down and lose three in a row," Harden said. "Oregon hasn't won a game yet, but they're going to come out with all their heart and play well and they did. But we had a little bit more edge. It was a must win for us, and we did."

Jeff Pendergraph had 13 points and seven rebounds for the Sun Devils (17-5, 6-4).

The 6-foot-5 Harden, the Pac-10 Conference's scoring leader with a 21.9-point average, scored at least 30 points for the fifth time this season and had the highest scoring performance in a Pac-10 game this season. His season high is 40 points against UTEP on Nov. 30.

Harden was 11-of-21 from the field, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range. He made eight of his last 11 shots after starting the game 3-of-9 from the field.

"He clearly was the difference in the game. Just a spectacular performance by James," Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. "We needed it. We desperately needed him to step up and play like this."

Harden was coming off a game against Washington where he took only nine shots. He had more than that by halftime against Oregon.

"Being more aggressive allowed my teammates to get open, too," Harden said. "That's our mind-set. If you're open, shoot the ball. If not, make another guy better and pass it. That's what we did today."

Tujuan Porter had 18 points for Oregon (6-16, 0-10), which is off to its worst conference start since 1992-93, when the Ducks lost their first 11 games.

"It is hard to play against a veteran team, especially when they have such a terrific performance by one of their players," Oregon coach Ernie Kent said.

Last season Oregon State became the only team to go 0-18 in Pac-10 history. Oregon hasn't won since beating Long Beach State on Dec. 29.

The Ducks were 17-of-41 from the field after going 10-of-21 in the first half.

The win was No. 300 of Sendek's college coaching career. Sendek, who has spent 16 years combined at Miami (Oh.), North Carolina State and Arizona State, is 300-198.

"Coaching is nice and everything, but the players make the difference and tonight we had a guy that did that for us," said Sendek, who is in his third season at Arizona State.

During a competitive first half in which there were 12 lead changes, Arizona State scored the final five points to take a 32-27 lead.

Oregon took a 23-21 lead with a 7-0 run while Pendergraph was sidelined with two fouls.

Arizona State quickly put some distance between itself and Oregon at the outset of the second half. Harden hit two 3-pointers as the Sun Devils scored the first eight points to take a 40-27 lead.

Oregon never recovered, as the Ducks couldn't contain the red-hot Harden. He scored 23 points during the second half, seemingly making a big basket any time Oregon started to cut into Arizona State's lead.

Oregon got as close as 49-42 with 8:53 left then Harden scored seven points during a 9-2 run to put the game away.

The game was held up for about 7 minutes when Arizona State guard Derek Glasser lay still and on his back near center court after being hit by an Oregon player setting a screen. Glasser, who suffered a concussion during last Saturday's game against Washington, walked off the court with assistance from ASU trainers.

Arizona State swept the regular season series from Oregon, having beaten the Ducks 76-58 in Tempe on Jan. 10.


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