Devils Top Trojans in Season Opener

With shocking losses by Cal and USC on Friday, suffice to say that ASU was not about to overlook Arkansas-Little Rock. Just like its two pre-season games, the Devils came out slow out of the gates, but turned up the heat in the second half. A solid defensive effort in the last 20 minutes helped ASU notch an 89-72 victory.

Steve Moore scored eight of the Devils' first ten points and ASU had a narrow 10-9 lead at the 15:20 mark of the first half. Within less than a minute, the Trojans' answered with two Nick Zachery three pointers to grab a 15-10 advantage. Tron Smith tied the score at 26-26 with 7:47 left in the half, and a dunk by Jason Braxton gave the home team a 34-30 edge with 5:20 left in the first period. Nevertheless, the Sun Devils couldn't break away and went down to the locker room with a slim 40-39 lead.

The all so crucial first five minutes of the second half featured Steve Moore connecting on two of his four three pointers on the day, which helped propel ASU to a 53-45 edge with 15:42 left in the game. Braxton brought down the house with a SportsCenter worthy slam to cap a 10-4 run and give ASU a 63-49 advantage at the 11:58 mark of the second half. The Devils kept their margin relatively the same, and despite the Trojans' consistent fouling, as well as the endless and meaningless time outs, they were never able to cut the lead into single digits.

Steve Moore led all players with 26 points (in 28 minutes), and was a perfect 10-10 from the charity stripe. Ike Diogu nearly missed a double-double with 24 points and eight rebounds. The sophomore added a career high five blocks. Jason Braxton had a remarkable all around game with ten points, seven assists, and six caroms. Jamal Hill chipped in with a strong performance off the bench scoring 11 points. Will Fameni tied Diogu with eight boards, most of them coming in the second half. ASU was 43.6% from the field, and 81.4% from the free throw line. After trailing by five in the first half, the Sun Devils finished the game with a 42-35 advantage on the boards. Arkansas-Little Rock was paced by Nick Zachery who had 25 points on the afternoon.

"I was pretty pleased with the effort of our basketball team today," Said head coach Rob Evans. "I though they gave a great account of themselves in the first game of the season, plus the first basketball game for a lot of these guys. I thought they held their composure pretty good. The first basketball game on any level is a hard basketball game, and I think a lot of teams found that out last night."

"Defensively they got better as the team went on," continued Evans. "I'm really proud of Steve Moore. I thought he played well. Will Fameni came in the second half and gave us a good lift with six rebounds. This is work in progress. We'll get better each day, each game. By the time we get to Christmas we could be a very good basketball team." Evans credited his team's slow start due to some impatience, and going away from getting Ike Diogu involved early on.

Evans applauded Jason Braxton and his effort on both ends of the floor. "He's making real good decisions with the basketball," exclaimed Evans. "On the defensive end of the floor, he's playing really well. He creates a lot of havoc for us. He's picking his spots as far as the offense is concerned. He's maturing as a point guard. He has confidence. Even when he missed four free throws, we had confidence in him."

"They had me locked up pretty good," said Ike Diogu concerning his own slow start to the game. "Fortunately, Steve Moore came out hitting those big shots and opened everything up." The sophomore wasn't disappointed or surprised that most of his points came from the free throw line. "I wanna go to the free throw line," he said. "That's part of being aggressive, and I consider myself an aggressive player. As long as I keep taking it strong, I think I'll keep on getting fouled." Diogu added that he felt that the career high in blocks today is a result of his improvement on defense.

Diogu thought the team played pretty good, and that the newcomers played well in their ASU debut. "We survived a couple of their runs, and went on some ourselves." Diogu admitted that he was nervous this afternoon, as were his teammates. Thus, the slow start exhibited by the Sun Devils. "Once you get the bugs out, you start rolling as a team. You have to be patient and wait for things to develop. I don't really want to go in there, and start doing things that I know we don't do. I just let it come to me and it eventually did."

The Sun Devils jump right back into action on Monday night at 7PM when they host Cal State Fullerton. Today's victory gave many reasons to be optimistic, but also presented some areas of moderate concern. Not only will a win be expected at the next game, but also some signs of improvement.

Sparky's Sundries For the first time in 13 years, two freshmen, Tron Smith and Keith Wooden, were in the starting lineup for ASU…In the first half ASU was 12-13 from the free throw line… Diogu finished the game 13-14 from the charity stripe. His 13 made three throws were another career high achieved today…When you're perfect from the free throw line no one will complain, but Moore stance which puts him three feet behind the line is a bit peculiar…Jason Braxton tied a career high with seven assists…The only blemish on Braxton's game today were his four straight free throw misses late in the second half…Quite a few NBA scouts were in attendance including Pat Riley and Walter Davis…The Student section represented well today and was in mid-season form with its taunts during the game. Especially funny were the "Ja-Rule" and "Rudy" chants towards the Trojans' Brandon Freeman and Zack Graber…

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