Second Half Burst Aids ASU Over EA Sports

Meet the Diogu-less Devils. ASU played no less than seven new faces tonight, and without their All-American stumbled in the first half. In the second half the first game jitters surrendered to the team's athleticism and talent, and the Sun Devils outscored the visitors 51-27 in that period, en route to a 80-65 victory in their first pre-season game of the 2003-04 season.

Poor shot selection was all the rage in the first half for ASU. Rob Evans' team was 1-12 from three-point land, and overall shot a dismal 35.3%. They were dominated in the paint and on the boards, and coupled with 12 turnovers the home team found itself down 39-29 at halftime. Keith Wooden scored six points to open the second half, and along with some fine long range shooting by Steve Moore and Tron Smith, ASU tied the score midway in the second half and never looked back. In the last twenty minutes the Devils shot 52.6%, committed only six turnovers, and won the battle of the boards 47-42. ASU was 10-15 from the line.

Steve Moore led all scorers with 21 points and tied Jason Braxton for a team high eight rebounds. Braxton led all players with eight assists. Tron Smith was the only other ASU player in double figures with 17. Aside from Wooden (eight points), the team got nice contributions from Jamal Hill (nine points) and Chris Low (five points).

"This was a good job by the guys considering that this was the first basketball game on the Division I level," said head coach Rob Evans. "In the first half they came out a little tense. They weren't playing as hard as you need on this level. This was a good teaching lesson how to play. In the second half they came out better defensively, and executed on the offensive end, and won the hustle points. This was a good game because they had to come back from a deficit."

Evans pointed out that Diogu's absence allowed EA Sports to get second and third shots they normally wouldn't get. However, he was pleased with how well his team played without their biggest impact player. "When Ike is in there, we have an inside presence more than we had tonight. They battled considering the fact he wasn't in there. We know how good these guys are. It does give you a better barometer in game situations, but I would much rather have Ike out there so we can see them with him."

The ASU coach didn't know if Diogu will be available for the team's second and last pre-season game this coming Monday. "We certainly not gonna rush him. If he's ready to go and he's feeling good we'll play him."

Evans was "proud" with how well newcomers such as Tron Smith, Steve Moore, Keith Wooden, and Chris Low played, and he was delighted with the manner in which point guard Jason Braxton ran the team in the second half. "We have along way to go," exclaimed Evans. "But I was pleased how they shared the basketball, how they helped each other in the second half on the defensive side of the floor. In the first half they were antsy and anxious. In the second half they played like they were practicing."

With the first game under their belt, Evans expected his team to improve in the short and the long tern future. "I expect us to be better each time we play," he said. "I expect us to be better tomorrow. I expect us to be better next week. The object is to continue to improve, and the byproduct of that is winning basketball games."

Sparky's Sundries The starting lineup featured only one returning starter (Jason Braxton), a seldom used reserve (Justin Allen), two true freshmen (Tron Smith and Will Fameni), as well as JC transfer Steve Moore…Keith Wooden and Jamal Hill were slated to start, but due to an academic violation they came in later in the game…Blame it on the rain – it was sparse crowd at Wells Fargo Arena, but the plethora of empty seats in the student section (which doubled in capacity this year) was surprising…The student section demanded and got a brief appearance by crowd favorite Brandon Goldman who came in with 1:12 left in the contest. His biggest cheerleader was Serge Angounou who was waiving a white towel a la Larry Bird in his Celtics' days…

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