Devils Lose a Heartbreaker at Northwestern

Dating back to last season the road has not been kind to ASU. This season matters are unfortunately no different. Thanks to buzzer beater 63-61 loss to Northwestern, the Sun Devils will end their second season in a row without a true road win. What may be even more disheartening is that the deficiencies that have plagued the Sun Devils all season reared their ugly head once again in defeat.

A slow starting team such as Arizona State, actually came out of the blocks in encouraging fashion. Jamal Hill's three pointer put the Devils up 9-7 at the 15:15 mark of the first half. An Allen Morill basket kept the visitors ahead 13-12 with 10:40 left in the half. Coincidently, that was the last time the Sun Devils were ahead until the waning moments of the game. Three long-range baskets by the Wildcats made up a 9-0 run and spotted the home team 21-13 at the 8:52 mark. The two teams traded baskets, and ASU's Ike Diogu beat the clock in the first half to keep ASU in striking distance at halftime 27-34.

Northwestern began the second half on an 8-3 run engineered by Vedran Vukusic and T.J. Parker, which gave the Cats their biggest lead of the night 42-30 at the 16:19 mark of the second half. However, ASU behind Diogu's four points answers with an 8-0 run of their own to cut the lead to 42-38 with 12:14 left in the game. The Devils never allowed the Wildcats to substantially increased their lead, and a Steve Moore jumper tied the game for the first time at 49 a piece at the 6:20 mark. Moore's three pointer with 1:53 left in the game gave the Sun Devils their first lead of the second half 60-59. Morill makes one of two from the charity stripe to tie the game one last time at 61 with 0.43 remaining in the contest. Nevertheless, ASU isn't able to capitalize on two missed free throws by Northwestern, which set the table for Parker's last second and heart ripping basket.

Diogu led ASU with 23 points and 14 rebounds (seven of them offensive). The sophomore was also a perfect 6-6 from the line. Moore finished with nine points, and Justin Allen's six points were crucial in the Devils' comeback in the second half. ASU was ice cold from the field shooting 35.8%, and didn't fair much better from the free throw line converting 66.7% of their shots. The Devils held a 37-31 edge on the glass, and committed only eight turnovers in the contest. Northwestern's Vedran Vukusic led all scorers with 26.

Poor perimeter defense, inability to box out for rebounds (especially in the fist half) have been all too common for ASU in this young 2003-04 campaign. Skeptics may wonder if these trends are here to stay. It goes without saying that winning the last three non-conference games are vital for any NCAA tournament hopes that the Devils may still have. But more importantly, this young squad needs victories, regardless of the opponent, to build up a shaken confidence. While a win against McNeesse State on December 22nd is expected, the manner in which it is achieved will truly indicate if ASU was able to shake off this gut wrenching loss.

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