The timing could not have been better for Arizona State.
With ASU leading 53-49 over hard-charging Temple, Harden worked over a screen at the top of the key and fired a 3-pointer that swished with 4:02 left. He tugged at his jersey and exhaled as he ran back downcourt, relieved to have ended a 0-for-6 skid. Harden added two more foul shots at 3:21 to give ASU a 58-51 lead. He has scored the Sun Devils' past six points.
Prior to that it was Christmas in March at American Airlines Arena.
Dionte Christmas had led a dogged Temple rally to within three points, 52-49, with 6:47 left to play. Christmas has been an unstoppable offensive force, scoring 27 of the Owls' 49 points. He has also won in a landslide in the individual matchup with Harden.
This is Harden's second straight poor scoring game, after being held to only 10 points by USC on 3-of-9 shooting in the Pacific-10 tournament final. Not the stuff lottery picks are made of.
But at least Harden has had the help of teammates Jeff Pendergraph (20 points) and Derek Glasser (17, all in the first half). Glasser, who has been a one-man M*A*S*H unit the latter half of the season, was banged up early in the second half and appeared to have hurt his back. He sat out quite a while and has attempted only one shot this half.