Rob Evans summed up the struggles of his ASU basketball team quite nicely Friday: "When we go smaller, we don't rebound as well. When we go bigger, we struggle guarding."
This is why he had only one rebounder in the game in the closing seconds of the Sun Devils' latest close-loss debacle on Thursday.
Trying to protect a two-point lead in the final 20 seconds vs. USC, he left forward Serge Angounou on the bench, figuring the junior with the surgically repaired right knee would have a hard time defending the Trojans' small lineup.
"I knew he'd probably come up with the rebound if they missed the shot. But they needed to miss the shot."
USC missed a 3-pointer, but the rebound skipped past small forward Bryson Krueger; the Trojans got another shot for the game winner and nailed it.
Extending a years-old pattern, ASU now has lost all three of its down-to-the-wire games: vs. Minnesota, Utah Valley State and USC. "We should be 9-3," Evans said. "But you have to take care of details.
"You work on it. You go over it. You talk about it. You do everything you can.
"You put them in a position to be successful. Then they have to go out and make plays."
There aren't a whole lot of options for a shake-up, but Evans said he'll try Antwi Atuahene as the starting point guard, in hopes of getting the promising newcomer to take more responsibility for the team's fortunes.
The Sun Devils have struggled to get production from the position for years.
That was the case Thursday, when Tyrone Jackson failed to score and at times struggled to run the offense.
Yet Atuahene had people around the team scratching their heads when he asked out of the game in the second half, saying he needed a breather, even though he ended up playing only 17 minutes.
Atuahene said he wasn't ill, that he felt he could play better full-court defense later on by taking a break.
In general, Atuahene hasn't played like the potentially dominant player he appeared to be early in the season.
Evans and the point guard have talked, and Atuahene says he realizes that, "I have to look to get myself more involved in the game." Evans is also going more with two big men and three perimeter players (instead of one and four). The result is more structure and less motion.
Mostly, this is a matter of "trying to get some scoring inside," Evans says. Using a lone big man, the player would mostly set screens for shooters and wouldn't score much, he said.
"We can't just rely on perimeter scoring.
"We know the perimeter guys will do the majority of the scoring. But we've got to get Jeff Pendergraph and Chad Goldstein eight to 10 points a game."
ASU freshman Pendergraph and UCLA freshman Darren Collison were teammates on last year's 31-2 Etiwanda High School team in Southern California.