Devils Tame Tigers in NCAA Opener

Earning respect is a notion that coach Rob Evans has been preaching ever since he landed in Tempe five years ago. Lack of respect is what Memphis was showing the Devils in some pre-game trash talk. Tonight following an ASU 84-71 win, it would be easy to single out the team who gained reverence and the team who wish they could walk their talk.

The Sun Devil showed some opening minutes jitters, but Kyle Dodd scored six points in the first five minutes to give his team an 11-10 lead with 15:25 left in the half. The score changed sides and was tied several times, but following a Shawn Redhage three-pointer the Devils were still in command 28-26 at the 5:40 mark. The Tigers closed out the half regaining the lead, but Curtis Millage with six seconds left gave Memphis a slim 33-32 lead.

ASU star Ike Diogu was relatively quiet the first twenty minutes, but in the crucial first few minutes of the second half the Pac-10 freshman of the year not only woke up but brought down the house as well. Diogu's two long bombs were part of a ten-point outburst, which helped his team go on a 13-0 run and take control of the game for good. The Devils' lead reached double digits for the first time at the 15:50 mark when they led 45-35. ASU had an answer for everything Memphis threw at them, and a rare Jason Braxton three pointer kept the margin the same at the 8:30 mark where the score read 57-47. The Tigers could only cut the lead to seven points, despite petty foul calls (part of a horrible officiating performance) that caused both Diogu and Tommy Smith to foul out. John Calipari employed his famed press defense, which only helped the Devils score easy baskets and give coach Rob Evans his first ever NCAA tournament.

Who else but Ike Diogu led ASU (and all scorers) with 22 points, including a remarkable 6-6 shooting from the field in the second half. Shawn Redhage scored 18 points in another fine late season effort by this Lincoln, Nebraska senior. The player who may had the best night of all was Curtis Millage who narrowly missed a triple-double with 17 points, 11 boards, and nine assists. The Sun Devils bench has some crucial contributions, namely from Donnel Knight (six points) and Jason Braxton (five points in perhaps his finest performance of the season). Evans' team was red hot in the second half shooting 70 percent from the field, and finishing at 52 percent for the game. The Devils' six three pointers shot at 42.9 percent were a rare feat, and tonight they also prevailed from the normally treacherous charity stripe shooting at a 72.7 percent clip. Memphis won the rebound battle 42-37, but ASU played disciplined all night committing only nine turnovers and holding an 18-11 edge in assists.

Popsicle in August? Memphis' Billy Richmond probably meant August in the southern hemisphere, when he described ASU's chances of victory. The only cold ASU experienced was the ice in their veins, and the ones melting down was Memphis who fell victim to the Sun Devils' scorching shooting touch in the last 20 minutes. Next up for ASU is second round match up with Kansas, who barely escaped a loss against heavy underdog Utah State. The Sun Devils are bound to be an underdog as well against the Jayhawks. Looks like it's time to earn respect all over again…

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