Devils Clobber Cowboys

The sole reason for tonight's early 6:00 PM tip-off, was to aid some of the Sun Devil players to catch a flight and spend Monday night in their hometown. Coach Evans was naturally fearful that the early packing of the suitcases would translate into a lackadaisical performance on the court. A career night by Ike Diogu put those fears to rest early in the contest, as ASU coasted to their biggest win of the season 81-61 over McNeese State.

Diogu scored six of ASU's first 11 points, and with an 11-2 lead at the 16:42 mark; the writing was on the wall. With 10:26 left in the first half the sophomore scores three points the old fashion way to boost the Devils' lead to 24-8, as the home team capitalizes on the Cowboys' numerous turnovers. A Jason Braxton dunk brings the margin to over 20 points, 35-14 at the 6:10 mark. Justin Allen and Keith Wooden get into the scoring action, and paced by Diogu's 23 first half points ASU enjoys a 46-22 halftime lead.

McNeese State started chipping away at the commanding ASU lead, and a 10-4 run catches the ire of Evans' who calls timeout at the 15:01 mark of the second half, with the Sun Devils leading 50-32. With 8:15 left in the game a Braxton jumper caps an 11-0 run to give the Devils a 67-40 lead. A dunk by Diogu gives his team their biggest lead of the game 73-45 at the 5:58 mark of the second half. By the time crowd favorite Brandon Goldman enters the game, with 1:50 reaming in the contest, the majority of the crowd was already out of the door to continue their holiday shopping.

Not only did Ike Diogu establish a career high of 38 points, but he also led all players with eight rebounds, and was the only Sun Devil in double figures. Stevie Moore had nine points, while Jason Braxton had eight points, seven assists, and three steals. After shooting a torrid 63.0% in the first half, ASU cooled off in the second period and finished the contest shooting 48.2%. ASU didn't miss a single free throw in the second half (15-15), and were 80.6% on the night. Their sloppy 21 turnovers were negated by the Cowboys' 31. One more blemish on the Devils' stat sheet was a 2-16 three point shooting performance. Edward Garriett led the visitors with 21 points.

Coach Evans was extremely pleased with the defensive display against the Cowboys. "We did a real good job pressuring the basketball," he said. "Best job we did defensively all year. I thought Jason Braxton did a good job setting the tone on the defensive end. Second half we weren't as sharp defensively, but we were in spurts. We have to get to the point where we play defense for 40 minutes. That's when we'll become an outstanding basketball team."

Feeding Diogu the ball early and often played in perfectly to ASU's game plan. "We've been really working hard getting the basketball to Ike," exclaimed Evans. "The opposition knows that we're trying to get the basketball to him, and it makes it difficult. We made a concerted effort, and Ike is very unselfish. He'll pass or dribble out of double teams. He was ready to play. He's always ready to play."

Despite the blowout win, the starting five for ASU were in the game for long stretches in the second half (Diogu logged 33 minutes, and Braxton 31). The ASU skipper explained the reasoning behind that move. "We haven't played for a while," he said, "especially at home. We're not gonna play again for a while. I wanted to play these guys, and get them ready."

"This is a real young basketball team," continued Evans. "We have eight guys that are freshmen/sophomores. We have a lot of learning to do. I like the makeup of this team, and the effort that they give. We're better than we were last week, but we still have a lot of work to do."

Diogu admitted that there was a certain sense of urgency to perform well tonight, following a heartbreaking loss to Northwestern. "Definitely. We put this one on the board as a must win. We just had to get that bad state out of our mouth, and come out and play aggressive in the first half. I tried to come out like I always do. I wanted to be aggressive, and put the team on my back. We played with great energy and effort and got the win."

This victory could easily be perceived as a ho-hum accomplishment. However, taking into account the early season struggles by ASU, the win over McNeese State isn't just another "W" in the column – it's a significant confidence booster. The Devils return to the court on December 29th to play in their holiday tournament against San Diego. It will be imperative for Rob Evans's team to pick up right where they left off, in hopes of steamrolling into conference play, which is less than two weeks away.

Sparky's Sundries Through seven games, Diogu is averaging 24.86 points, which is tops among major conference players nationally…His career high 38-points are the most points since Eddie House scored 40 against UCLA on Feb. 17th, 2000 (105 games ago). It is also tied for eighth all-time in ASU's history…McNeese State's uniforms had a striking resemblance to Michigan's, but suffice to say that this is where the resemblance started and ended…Former Sun Devil Tommy Smith, who plays in Croatia, attended the game. While he's having a good season, he expressed his strong desire to play in the U.S. at the end of his season. His rights are owned by the Chicago Bulls…The one downfall of shooting 63.0% in the first half was collecting only three offensive boards, and actually losing the battle 18-13. However, the Devils finished the game with a 32-28 edge on the glass…Prior to the playing of the national anthem a moment of silence was observed in memory of former ASU football player Victor Cahoon.

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