Just as Arizona State started to show improvement, junior Trent Lockett jumped for a rebound and landed on the foot of Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham. That happened Jan. 14, and Lockett hasn't played since, missing the Sun Devils' last five games with a severely sprained right ankle.
He'll remain sidelined for Saturday's Pac-12 contest at California, making it more difficult for a team that's already challenged on both ends and was blown out by Stanford on Thursday.
"It's getting better," Lockett said after Thursday's 68-44 loss at Stanford. "The swelling finally is starting to go down. These last four days, we've really made progress."
The Sun Devils (7-15, 3-7) need Lockett. He's their leading scorer (13.9 points per game) and rebounder (6.4). He shoots 54.7 percent from the field and 42.4 percent from 3-point range. Perhaps most important: When he's on the floor, he moves the ball.
Arizona State is 1-4 since losing Lockett. In the Sun Devils' lone win, they moved the ball well in a 71-67 home win over Washington State, shooting 54.5 percent with 18 assists. It was a fluke. Against Stanford, the ball stuck on the perimeter. The Sun Devils didn't record their first assist until 12:50 remained in the game. They finished with a season-low four, tying for the fewest under a Herb Sendek-coached Arizona State team.
"It's frustrating, especially watching stuff like that," Lockett said. "It's hard to watch."
Lockett said he hopes to be ready for the Feb. 9 home game against Utah. Something to keep in mind, however: He hasn't done anything more than shoot set shots at close range since injuring his ankle. It might take a while for him to return to form.
-- Chanse Creekmur finally hit a shot Thursday. The sophomore forward scored a career-high 24 points Jan. 14 against Oregon State, then disappeared. He went a combined 0 for 12 in his next four games -- and didn't get to the foul line, either. Against Stanford, Creekmur missed his first four shots before hitting a 3-pointer late in the game. He did, however, grab a team-high five rebounds. Arizona State needs Creekmur to find his confidence.
-- ASU must cope Saturday with one of the league's best home-court advantages this season, as well as a Cal backcourt led by Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe. The Devils must control the tempo, because the Bears can score quickly if allowed to develop a rhythm in transition. Cal has won four in a row and six of the last seven against ASU.
-- After a slow start to his college career, sophomore C Jordan Bachynski is playing his best basketball. Over his past four games, the 7-foot-2 Bachynski is averaging 12.5 points, hitting 16 of 20 shots from the field. In Thursday's loss at Stanford, he scored a career-high 20 points, making 10 of 12 foul shots. He had been 20 of 50 from the line entering the game.
"He's just being more aggressive," coach Herb Sendek said. "Against Stanford, he made his free throws. That makes a huge difference. He really had been struggling at the line ... but right now he has an edge of determination that's really a bright spot for us."
-- Before Thursday, Jonathan Gilling had made a strong push for Pac-12 All-Freshman consideration. The 6-7 forward scored a team-high 20 points in last week's loss against Washington and totaled a team-high seven assists two days later in a win over Washington State. Over his past 12 games, Gilling had averaged 8.8 points. However, he took a step back against Stanford, scoring three points and going just 1 for 7 from the field.