Devils Struggle in Win Over Highlanders

What is it with Big West opponents and Arizona State? For the second time this week, a member of that conference proved to be a handful for Rob Evans' team. It took career games by Ike Diogu and Will Fameni to finally shake off UC Riverside to the tune of 77-68. The victory improved ASU to 3-0 on the season.

The visitors didn't score their first basket until the 16:55 mark of the first half, but with 15:52 left in the half the Devils were only up 7-5. Riverside's Nate Carter and Vili Morton helped their team gain its first lead of the game 16-14 at the 13:01 mark. A Diogu free throw gave ASU a 25-19 lead with 9:29 left in the half. A Morton dunk capped off a 9-2 run and gave back the lead to the Highlanders 28-27 at the 5:27 mark. Twenty seconds later Evans' jacket comes flying off following a play where Diogu is roughed up with no foul in sight. That did very little to fire up the Devils who went down to the locker room trailing 37-31.

Fameni opened the second half with four quick points, but Evans is forced to take a time out at the 17:58 mark of the second half with Riverside maintaining a 41-35 edge. An 8-1 run capped off by a Tron Smith lay-up gave ASU the lead for good 44-43 with 14:32 left in the contest. However, that's not to say that Highlanders didn't fight back. At the 9:01 mark a Matt Benson three pointer narrowed the gap to 56-55. At that point, Diogu and Fameni make sure that visitors don't grab the lead once again, and explode on a 16-6 run to push the Devils lead for the first time into double digits, 72-61 with 3:09 left in the game. Jason Braxton's free throws at the end made sure that that his team remained undefeated in this short 2003-04 campaign.

Ike Diogu scored a career high 31 points, to go along with his nine rebounds and three blocks. He did however have five turnovers. True freshman Will Fameni was a surprise starter, and he answered the call with a career high 16 points and 13 rebounds. Steve Moore had 16 points as well, and missed only two shots on the afternoon. On a day where ASU struggled to maintain the lead for good portions of the game, it shot a somewhat shocking 53.2% from the field, and a solid 75% from the line. The Devils dominated the boards 35-23, but also committed 17 turnovers. Morton and Carter had 19 and 18 points respectively for the pesky Highlanders.

If the Sun Devils need to get away from the friendly confines of Wells Fargo Arena to play better, they will get to do so this Wednesday when they travel to Omaha for a match-up against Nebraska. There's no doubt that no one on the team can be pleased with the way the team is currently playing. Nevertheless, a road victory, as ugly as it may be, could put the swagger back into a squad yearning for confidence.

Sparky's Sundries Jamal Hill and Will Fameni were inserted into the starting lineup, and the experimentation didn't need there. With six minutes left in the first half, Justin Allen, Brandon Goldman, and Jamie Andersevic were the only dressed players who didn't see any playing time…Not that we don't love the ASU Pep Band, but isn't a time that we have some performers signing the national anthem…Good job by the student section getting on the opposition. Nevertheless, their occasional profanities take away from their solid support.

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