Arizona St. readies for Washington with Harden hurting

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State star James Harden has missed
the last two practices and may not play against Washington on
Thursday night due to a groin injury.

If Harden is out, the Sun Devils (No. 24 AP) would have to
replace more than his team-leading 18.6 points per game. Coach Herb
Sendek shook his head when asked what else ASU would miss with its
versatile freshman guard on the bench.

"That's a complicated question," Sendek said Tuesday at his
weekly campus news conference. "If I broke that down, we would all
miss lunch, and I wouldn't dare keep some of you away from lunch.
Suffice it to say it most certainly causes us to reinvent ourselves
to some measure because he's obviously a very integral part of what
we do."

The Sun Devils probably won't know if Harden will play until
shortly before game time on Thursday night at Wells Fargo Arena.

In a strong year for freshmen in the Pac-10, the 6-foot-5 Harden
has had perhaps the greatest impact of any rookie. He may be the
main reason the Sun Devils (14-3, 4-1 Pac-10) are in a three-way
tie for first place after three weeks. A year ago, Arizona State
went 2-16 and finished last in the Pac-10.

Along with leading the Sun Devils in scoring, Harden has the
most steals (29) and minutes per game (32.9). He's shooting 55.4
percent from the field, 76.3 percent from the free-throw line and
43.5 percent from beyond the arc.

Not bad for the Pac-10's youngest player. Harden turned 18 on
Aug. 26.

"He brings a lot of length to the defense, being 6-5, and I
think he's got almost a 7-foot wingspan," said point guard Derek Glasser, who has 25 assists and only two turnovers in five Pac-10
games. "It's hard to replace an athlete like that on the boards.
His aggressiveness in attacking the rim and getting guys open, it's
going to be hard to replace if he doesn't play.

"Obviously, we'd love for him to be there, but if he's not,
we've got to go in there thinking that we can still win and be
prepared for anything," Glasser said.

If Harden has to sit out, the timing couldn't be worse for the
Sun Devils, who last week broke into The Associated Press Top 25
for the first time since 1995. Arizona State is 4-1 in the Pac-10
for the second time in 20 years.

After Washington, the Sun Devils play host to No. 6 Washington
State on Saturday. Then they go to Los Angeles to face UCLA (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP)
and Southern California before taking on Arizona in Tucson. Their
first home game after that stretch is against Stanford (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP),
which handed the Sun Devils their first conference loss Saturday in
Palo Alto.

"I think that we have prepared ourself for the stretch that
we're coming up to," Glasser said. "The coaches are definitely
going to stay on us."

First up are the Huskies (11-7, 2-3), who are coming off a home
sweep of the Oregon schools last weekend. The Huskies have won 10
straight over the Sun Devils, the longest active win streak by any
Pac-10 team over a conference rival.

Washington is led by 6-foot-7 junior forward Jon Brockman, who
last week earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors for the third
time this season. Brockman is fourth in the conference in scoring
(18.7 points per game) and first in rebounding (11.6 per game).

As their 67-52 loss at Stanford revealed, the Sun Devils are
vulnerable against teams with strong frontcourts. Harden's ability
to slash to the basket helps equalize Arizona State's disadvantage
in the paint, and if he's out the Sun Devils will have to find
other ways to score.

"It's going to be a tough thing to pick up just because James
does so much for us," said forward Jeff Pendergraph, who is
shooting a conference-best 64.7 percent from the floor. "But we're
kind of trying not to think about it like, 'Oh, James is gone, what
are we going to do?'

"That will just be a perfect opportunity for somebody that
hasn't been playing as much as they want to just come right in and
do what they need to do to help the team." Pendergraph said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.