At 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, James Harden was alone in an empty gym shooting.
He wasn’t chucking up fadeaway 3-pointers or some half-court hijinks.
He was working himself around the basket and around the perimeter, trying to regain the shot and swagger which made the Arizona State freshman an offensive force in the season’s first three weeks.
Somewhere between last Sunday’s ugliness in Nebraska and Wednesday night’s tip-off against Delaware State, the freshman’s feeling returned. Harden was at ease in the Sun Devils’ 77-38 victory at Wells Fargo Arena.
An early lead went down and out fast for the Sun Devils in Nebraska, and though Wednesday doesn’t quite make up for that lost game, there’s no looking back now.
Harden began the game with a 3-pointer, then followed with a layup and two smooth drives to the basket in the first nine minutes alone.
He kept driving to the basket and hitting 3-pointers, and had a couple of quick-hit dunks in the middle. His 24 points were a season high, and his eight rebounds and three steals were equally welcome.
“I’m not used to losing or being blown out,” Harden said. “We did pretty well tonight. (Sunday) was a growing experience.”
Film sessions were tough the previous two days, as expected following a 15-point loss which felt worse than that. Players said coach Herb Sendek, as is his style, didn’t go overboard once the team returned to Tempe, instead choosing an intense-but-not-boiling demeanor.
“We didn’t run 30 miles or anything like that,” junior forward Jeff Pendergraph said.
Still, ASU (5-2) responded. Delaware State played most of the second half without leading scorer Roy Bright, who left with an injury, but the night was pretty much over by halftime, if not shortly thereafter. Delaware State shot 21 percent for the game. The Sun Devils were 14-for-17 (82 percent) in the second half.
Jamelle McMillan and Derek Glasser combined for 12 assists and three turnovers.
Pendergraph blocked three shots and Eric Boateng made all five of his shots and blocked two in 15 minutes.
Sendek called Sunday’s loss a “disconnect,” in which at times the game became “every man for himself,” in trying to stem the tide.
The Sun Devils assisted on 25 of 30 field goals and committed seven turnovers.
The Sun Devils said the who-are-we search continues, but they learned they’re not a team which sulks for long.
“We couldn’t do nothing about it now,” Harden said. “We had to move forward.”