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Career day for Harden helps Arizona State roll

Dec 1, 2008 - 4:43 AM ANAHEIM, California (Ticker) -- James Harden helped Arizona State put its first loss behind them.

The sophomore guard scored a career-high 40 points as No. 14 Arizona State bounced back to defeat Texas-El Paso, 88-58, in Sunday's consolation contest of the 76 Classic.

Harden shot 14-of-25 from the floor, including 6-of-7 from the arc to record his third game of at least 32 points this season. He also added eight rebounds and four assists.

"My teammates did a wonderful job of looking for me and giving me the pass on time and on target," Harden said. "They put me in a position to score and be successful.

"I just knew we had to bounce back from the loss. I wasn't thinking of anything besides bouncing back and playing well. I think our team had a collective effort in this win and we all had the mindset of trying to play well and redeem ourselves."

Arizona State (5-1) was coming off Friday's 87-78 setback to Baylor where it allowed 56 points in the second half alone after surrendering 53.0 over its previous three contests.

Randy Culpepper made his first five shots - four from the arc - as UTEP raced out to an 18-11 lead with 14:02 left in the first half.

The Sun Devils answered with long-range shots, going 5-for-5 from the arc during a 19-2 run to take a 30-20 advantage with 9:47 left.

"We did not identify and recognize the shooters early," Miners coach Tony Barbee said. "We got some open looks and they didn't go down and that's what Arizona State's zone is designed to do, making you shoot a low percentage. But our defense was inexcusable, we gave up layup after layup after layup. We just have to go back to the drawing board as we got some tough games ahead of us and move on."

Harden scored 14 straight points for his team at one point, and his three-point play with 6:10 left before the break gave Arizona State a 41-27 lead. He finished the first half with 19 points - including 4-of-4 from the arc - as the Sun Devils led, 46-37, at the break.

UTEP could not keep up in the second half, and Arizona State began to pull away with a 14-1 burst to take a 78-52 bulge with 6:33 remaining.

"I was really pleased with the way our guys responded and bounced back today," Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek said. "I don't want to take anything away from Baylor, they played a terrific basketball game, but we certainly didn't feel good about our performance the other night. Today, I thought our defense was much better."

Harden put the finishing touches on his career game with a 3-pointer followed by a breakaway dunk off a steal to make the score 83-54 with just over three minutes left.

Culpepper scored 24 points to lead the Miners (3-3), who shot 30 percent (16-of-54) from the floor. UTEP's leading scorer, Stefon Jackson, scored 13 points on 1-of-12 shooting.