TEMPE, Ariz. When Arizona State took care of the ball Wednesday, it had things pretty much its way. ASU forced play and got opportune shots, including a slam dunk by Carrick Felix with nine minutes left in the first half that had the house rocking.
But because the Sun Devils did not do that enough, they found themselves a couple of possessions short once again.
Nevada sent ASU to its third straight home defeat, 69-61, at Wells Fargo Arena, taking advantage of 16 Sun Devils' turnovers, 10 in the second half. ASU entered the game averaging 18.7 turnovers a game, 320th in NCAA Division 1.
Nevada is no slouch. It beat Washington in overtime with guard Deonte Burton scoring 31 points, and Burton added 28 Wednesday, benefitting from 13 foul shots. But losing to a Western Athletic Conference team at home, after losing to West Coast Conference Pepperdine and Mountain West Conference New Mexico, is no way to start the nonconference season.
ASU coach Herb Sendek is getting tired of it, and it showed in an animated, passionate postgame news conference, an indication of how frustrated he is with the Sun Devils' 3-5 start.
"Either their heads weren't in it, or we're bad players," Sendek said.
"I've seen dodge ball games at gym class where they take better care of the ball. We made sloppy passes. Careless, uncalled for, sloppy passes. Not sharp and crisp. Not smart decisions. Not treasuring the basketball.
"Our shot selection was as bad as it's been all year. We did not do a good job of executing our man or our zone offense. I think there were some possessions that we even recognized what defense they were in and communicated it with each other to get into the proper set."
Felix's dunk on an assist from Keala King with 8:39 left in the first half gave ASU its first lead, 21-19, and the Sun Devils led at the half, 29-27, while committing only six turnovers.
Felix led ASU with 15 points, and King and Kyle Cain had 14. Cain added 10 rebounds, for his first double-double of the season, although the Sun Devils were outrebounded for the first time this season, 35-30. Each team shot 42 percent.
ASU extended its lead to six early in the second half and were up by four, 45-41, when Cain made a reverse layup with 13:39 remaining.
After coming off its best victory of the season at Tulsa on Saturday, ASU seemed to be in a similar groove, with one turnover in a 17-minute period.
But turnovers on three consecutive possessions by guard Chris Colvin keyed an 8-0 run by Nevada, giving the Wolf Pack a 49-45 lead. The Sun Devils led only once thereafter, when King made a 3-pointer to make it 52-51 with 6:41 left.
King, who started at the point when Colvin sat as ASU opened with big men Cain and Ruslan Pateev, had seven turnovers. Colvin and Trent Lockett had four apiece.
Lockett, ASU's leading scorer with a 16.3 average entering the game, had only four points in 38 minutes. The byproduct of ASU's poor shot selection is that Lockett does not get the ball in his hands enough. ASU's guard need to get Lockett involved instead of occasionally forgetting about him.
"Our guys know what constitutes a good shot, so I'm not letting them off the hook. Take a bad shot, you either are not playing smart or you are playing for yourself," Sendek said.
"We had streams when we turned the ball over, took a bad shot. Turned the ball over, took a bad shot. Turned the ball over, took a bad shot. I was really, really encouraged after the Tulsa game. We played a good team on the road, which is not easy to do. We played a heck of a game. As good as we were Saturday, we were that much worse today.
"This isn't nuclear physics. It's really simple. You have to play with great energy and effort all the time, unless you're talent quotient is just so overwhelming that you could take pockets off. We obviously don't have an overwhelming talent quotient, so we have to be tenacious and simultaneously smart. We were neither."
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