Saturday on FOX Sports Arizona: ASU vs. Oregon State, 6 pm
The new year has just arrived, and Arizona State already has faced more drama than a soap opera.
The Sun Devils have dealt with ineligibilities, suspensions and dismissals, juggling their lineup along the way. It's produced a lot of headlines, and it's also camouflaged the Sun Devils' biggest weakness: They can't win at home.
After losing 67-58 to Oregon on Thursday, the Sun Devils dropped to 2-7 at Wells Fargo Arena. Their last home win came more than a month ago, a 67-64 triumph over North Dakota State. It seems even longer.
The slump makes Saturday's home contest against Oregon State (11-6, 1-4 Pac-12) a must-win of sorts. Even in an open Pac-12 race, wins on the road won't come easily. That makes protecting home court a must.
"We got a good road win (last week) at USC," junior Trent Lockett said. "We just really need to take care of things at home."
Overall, the Sun Devils (5-11, 1-3) are in transition. Coach Herb Sendek's decision to dismiss leading scorer (and point guard) Keala King altered the lineup.
Lockett, who hadn't played point in college until last week, is now running the offense. Freshman Jonathan Gilling, not expected to contribute this season, has moved into the starting lineup. Learning roles takes time, but the Sun Devils have none.
Their biggest problem: Arizona State is committing 16.5 turnovers per game and forcing just 10.8. Against Oregon, that was the difference in the contest. The Sun Devils committed 16 turnovers and forced just eight. Oregon scored 21 points off Arizona State mistakes, while the Sun Devils scored just two points off Ducks miscues.
"I don't think we're terrifically active right now," said Sendek, adding that Arizona State had only 16 deflections, a statistic the team uses to measure defensive activity. "We need double that. If we have 32 deflections, we're going to be in a much better position."
TRENDING: Freshman Jonathan Gilling's recent performance is a surprise. Arizona State had offered the Denmark native a scholarship without actually watching the 6-foot-7 forward in person. As it turns out, it made no difference. After a slow start, Gilling has warmed up to the American game. Over his last three games, he's averaged 10.7 points, hitting eight of 15 shots from 3-point range. Perhaps more impressive: In 15 games, Gilling has 27 assists and just 11 turnovers. He had five assists against Oregon, which tied Trent Lockett for team-high honors.
SATURDAY'S GAME: vs. Oregon State, 6 p.m., FOX Sports Arizona
KEY MATCHUPS: Arizona State's front line will be tested by an Oregon State team that can rotate 6-foot-10 Angus Brandt, 6-7 Joe Burton, 6-10 Eric Moreland and 6-8 Devon Collier. But the Sun Devils must also pay attention to the Beavers' explosive backcourt duo of Jared Cunningham and Ahmad Starks. Cunningham is adept at penetration and drawing fouls, and Starks has great shooting range.