No. 16 ASU hopes to right ship at Cal

The last undefeated team in NCAA Division I, No. 16 Arizona State has run into difficulty in Pac-12 play.

California knows the feeling.

Arizona State (14-4, 2-4) will attempt to get back on track and preserve its station in the AP Top 25 when it visits the Golden Bears (7-11, 1-5) on Saturday, the Sun Devils' fifth road game in their first seven conference contests

The Sun Devils and Bears rank at the bottom of the Pac-12 in shooting percentage. That's a drastic drop for an Arizona State team that was shooting close to 50 percent while starting 12-0 and reaching No. 3 in the AP poll. The Sun Devils are shooting 41.5 percent from the floor in conference games. Cal is at 39.6 percent.

"We've regressed some in league play," Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said after an 86-77 loss at Stanford on Wednesday.

"We're still searching, and we have to circle the wagons," Hurley said. "We've done enough, and the teams that we have beaten (Kansas, Xavier) in the nonconference have gone on to show us that we are a good team. We're just not what we were at the moment. I think we can find ourselves again."

Opposing defenses have focused on stopping senior point guard Tra Holder, who led the Pac-12 with a 21.4 scoring average entering last week's games. But he's scored only 38 points on 11-for-46 shooting in the last four games.

Holder has seen it all. He's been trapped on high pick-and-rolls and has found big men waiting when he drives to the basket. He has gone to the free-throw line less as more physical play has been allowed in conference games.

"We wouldn't have the record we have without the way he's played," Hurley said. "He kinda gets a pass. When he is not shooting it well we need other guys to step up and make plays. It's a long year. You are going to go through some periods like this. I know Tra is going to bounce back and find his rhythm again."

Shannon Evans II is averaging 17.2 points a game and Kodi Justice is at 14.1. Forward Romello White had 19 points against Stanford as the Sun Devils made a conscious effort to go inside. He had 17 points in the previous three games combined.

"I just want to make sure we stay together as a team," Justice said. "We know it is a long season. Teams go through stretches like this."

California won three of its last four nonconference games and opened league play by overcoming a 17-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to beat Stanford 77-74. But the Bears have lost five straight games since by an average of 19.4 points a game.

The Bears have had their three lowest-scoring games of the season in their last three, the last a 79-58 loss to Arizona on Wednesday in which it had a season-low 18 field goals and committed 14 turnovers.

"Part of it is guys forcing the issue, but part of it is also using more clock to get a good shot," Cal first-year coach Wyking Jones told reporters after the Arizona game.

"In conference, everybody knows what everybody wants to run. In order to get a good shot, you have to work a little harder. You have to execute more, you have to do a better job of setting the screen."

Freshman forward Justice Sueing has been a bright spot, averaging 19.2 points and 7.8 rebounds in Pac-12 games.
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