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Devils outclassed by hot-rebounding Orange

Arizona State's Eric Boateng pump fakes Syracuse's Kristof Ongenaet (left) and Eric Devendorf during second-round action in the NCAA Tournament at American Airlines Arena in Miami on Sunday.

Arizona State's Eric Boateng pump fakes Syracuse's Kristof Ongenaet (left) and Eric Devendorf during second-round action in the NCAA Tournament at American Airlines Arena in Miami on Sunday.

MIAMI – Jeff Pendergraph took his time walking off the court at American Airlines Arena.

No, he wasn’t savoring the moment of his final college game. The senior forward simply was in no hurry to get to the locker room, the final exit of his Arizona State career.

One of the better ASU seasons in recent memory came crashing down Sunday. The sixth-seeded Sun Devils scrambled from the start against Syracuse. They never caught up, losing 78-67 in the South Region’s second round.

“I didn’t want to think about savoring anything because I’d probably start crying or something,” Pendergraph said.

The third-seeded Orange, getting five double-digit scorers, advanced to meet Oklahoma in the Sweet Sixteen. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils hustled to make their return flight to Phoenix. Pendergraph swiped his name card used at tournament news conferences, keeping it as a souvenir.

As good as ASU had been, the Sun Devils were overmatched against Syracuse. Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone caused them fits, prompting a season-high 35 three-point attempts.

On the other end, the Orange got whatever they wanted against Herb Sendek’s matchup zone. Syracuse shot 55.3 percent. It led by as many 15.

“I don’t know if we needed to play a near-perfect game, but we knew we had to play a really, really good game to beat them,” junior guard Derek Glasser said.

James Harden, ASU’s star guard, struggled for the third consecutive game. Sendek placed him in the middle of Syracuse’s zone, where Harden caught the ball near the foul line. In the first, he passed.

In the second, he attacked, but it was too little, too late.

The Pac-10′s player of the year, averaging 20.4 points, scored all 10 of his points in the second half. In the season’s final three games, Harden averaged 9.7 points, missing 21 of 27 from the field overall and 9 of 13 from 3-point range.

After the game, Harden said he wasn’t tired. His release felt good. The shots just didn’t fall.

“I don’t usually force things,” said Harden, who maintained that he is undecided about declaring for the NBA draft. “I usually let the game come to me, but in the second half I should’ve forced it a little bit more.”

Strapped with foul trouble, Pendergraph wasn’t much help. Battling Syracuse’s physical front line, Pendergraph picked up his fourth with 15:56 to go. Sendek took him out, but Syracuse surged, taking a 57-42 lead. Pendergraph re-entered with 13:29 left. He fouled out three minutes later.

“Just to see the game slipping away towards the end and there’s nothing I can do about it, that hurt,” Pendergraph said.

Ty Abbott poured in 20 points, including a 3-pointer that pulled ASU to within 61-57 with six minutes left, but Syracuse responded with a 9-2 spurt that sealed the outcome.

“It should have never got to four,” Boeheim said.

Eric Devendorf topped Syracuse (28-9) with 21 points. Andy Rautins supplied 17 off the bench. The Orange out-rebounded ASU 33-24 and scored 31 points in the lane.

Rihards Kuksiks added 20 points for ASU, which finished 25-10. The Sun Devils had posted back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1981, advancing to their first NCAA Tournament in six years.

They believe there’s plenty to build upon next season.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” Pendergraph said. “They left it on the line for me, and I couldn’t have asked for a better senior year.”

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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