Devils Notch First Pac-10 Win at Home

How many times have missed free throws prevented ASU from a victory? Tonight when the ever-reliant Ike Diogu missed five free throws in the last five minutes of the game, many Sun Devil fans felt like déjà vu all over again. However, the Devils overcame those struggles, converted their last nine shots from the charity stripe, and fended off the Oregon State Beavers 83-79.

Starting the game strong has become a hollow battle cry for ASU. Nevertheless, this objective was executed in remarkable fashion on Saturday. The Devils shot 61.5% from the field in the first twenty minutes, and led all through out the period. The home team converted seven of their eight first possessions to jump to a 14-6 lead at the 15:14 mark. Oregon State's David Lucas brought his team within four to 18-14 two minutes later. Thanks to Jamal Hill's eight points, ASU was able to keep the visitors at bay and lead 32-25 with 5:52 left in the half. A rare three pointer by Jason Braxton ended the half, as the Devils enjoyed a 43-34 edge.

In the first couple minutes of the second half, Lucas went on a personal 6-0 run, cutting down Oregon State's deficit to 43-40. Allen Morrill scored quick five points and increased ASU's lead to 56-47 with 14:00 left in the game. A 17-6 run by the Beavers, capped off with Lucas' pair of free throws, and gave the visitors their first lead of the game 64-62 at the 7:52 mark of the second half. As mentioned, Diogu missed many free throws down the stretch, but the ones he made aided ASU to reclaim the lead for good 77-76 with 1:38 reaming in the contest. Hill and Moore secured the team's inaugural conference win at home, as they were sent to the charity stripe in the waning moments of the contest.

Diogu was one of four Sun Devils in double digit scoring, pouring in 24 points and grabbing a game high 15 boards. Hill had a huge night off the bench scoring 17 points, including 3-4 from beyond the arc. Braxton and Keith Wooden had 12 points apiece. ASU was cold in the second half shooting only 33.3% from the field, but thanks to their first half performance they ended the game with 48% shooting from the field. The Devils dominated the boards 34-27, including 11 offensive rebounds. Their 17 personal fouls were one of the season's lowest. Lucas had a game high 27 points.

"I was pleased with the way we started off," said ASU coach Rob Evans following the game. "We've been talking a lot about focus and starting out (strong). We got the game started off right tonight. Outside of our post defense, we did a pretty good job. I thought it was a sign of growth when we were in pretty good shape, they (Oregon State) got the lead, and we battled back and stepped up late to make key plays. We were tougher tonight than we were Thursday."

Evans didn't see his squad's performance in the second half as a lapse. "I thought they (Oregon State) turned it up a little bit," he said. "Sometimes you have to give the opposition credit. It's not so much what we didn't do. We did get a little bit tentative on offense. We shorten our bench, and we got a little tired. When we were tired, our pressure was flat. We need to play more guys, but I felt that we had to shorten the bench to get off the snide, and get these guys rolling a bit."

The Sun Devils' skipper got great contributions from his bench in Jamal Hill and Allen Morill. Evans talked about their play tonight. "Jamal gave us a good lift," stated Evans. "He's been playing well the last three games. I didn't want to start him, because when I do, him and Stevie (Moore) need a break at the same time. They both play the same position, and they both bring the same things to the table. I think he's better off the bench. He has a chance to look at some things (from the sidelines), come in, and then feel free to shoot the basketball."

"Allen (Morill) did a great job defensively rebounding the basketball," continued Evans. "I've talked to him about what his role is, and I think he's finally settling into his role."

When one is trying to end a losing streak, as the Sun Devils were (coming in tonight at 0-4 in home conference games) the manner in which the win is achieved usually becomes secondary. ASU may have avoided their usual first half self-digging hole, but the second half ‘s display was almost bad enough to garner a loss. Thus far, the Devils have played better on the road in Pac-10 play. With the next four games away from Wells Fargo arena Rob Evans' team may look at this stretch as an opportunity to pad the win column. Fellow cellar dweller Washington State awaits ASU on Thursday night.

Sparky's SundriesAllen Morill had a solid game scoring nine points (seven in the second half), while not missing a shot – 3-3 from both the field and the line. However, the unsung hero is probably Kevin Kruger. The redshirt freshman was inserted in the last minute of the contest for his ball handling and free throw shooting. With 15 seconds left he was unable to handle a bad pass thrown to him by Braxton. Nevertheless, he had the fortitude to throw the ball off a Beaver defender and have ASU retain possession. At that time ASU only led by two points…while the ASU student section is usually very creative, the chants of "Harry Potter" directed to OSU's Derek Potter were pretty weak. We're used to more creativity from these folks…even though Beavers' skipper Jay John is only in his second year as a head coach, he should try and do a better job staying off the court and in the coach's box. He was fortunate that his antics didn't land him a technical foul…the initials "BG" now stand for both Brandon Goldman, as well as bald guy. Yes, the senior and crowd favorite sported a shiny and slick dome on Saturday. If that's what indeed got ASU off the snide, I'm sure that his teammates will make sure that he's never too far from a razor…

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