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The Sun Devils (9-14, 3-10) are coming of what can only be described as a debacle in Corvallis on Thursday night. ASU scored only 13 first half points and shot an abysmal 19% from the floor in the opening stanza. ASU showed some heart behind Ike Diogu and redshirt freshman PG Kevin Krueger in the second half, but fell to the Beavers (10-13, 4-9), 68-61.
The Ducks (12-8, 7-6) are also coming off a defeat on Thursday, despite Pac 10 POY favorite Luke Jackson's career high 42 points. Jackson attempted to will Oregon to victory, but they could not overcome an athletic Arizona (17-6, 9-5) team.
Oregon's trio of Ian Crosswhite, Mitch Platt, and Matt Short vs. Ike Diogu: Most teams have figured out that the best way to make ASU struggle is to crowd Diogu and let the rest of ASU's team bomb away from the outside. The Sun Devils have not been able to adjust during the first half to this type of defense and usually fall behind 10+ points in the opening half of play. Conversely, Diogu will have to play solid defense in the post to allow ASU's perimeter defenders to stick on the Oregon sharp shooters who love to set up behind the arc for open looks. If ASU's defenders have to help down at all on Oregon's post players, look for Jackson, Andre Joseph, and James Davis to make the Devils pay with open shots.
Steve Moore vs. the rim: If Moore, who was a consistent number two scoring threat earlier in the season, can overcome his recent shooting woes, the inside should open up for Diogu to work his magic in the post. If the rim wins this battle and Moore's shots are clanking off it at alarming rates, then the Ducks will just pack the middle and make the other, more inconsistent Devil shooters beat them with outside looks.
§ ASU must rebound the ball, especially on the defensive glass. The Ducks can put up points and ASU has struggled scoring. If Oregon gets multiple shots off in one possession consistently, the Devils are doomed.
§ The Devils must get back in transition defense or the Ducks will push the ball and make easy lay-ins or uncontested jumpers on the break all night. ASU has really struggled in the area so far this year.
§ The young Devils must just relax and play ball. They are frustrated, angry, and confused over the way this season has gone; however, we have also seen them come together and play at high levels for short stretches. They can do it, but they need to react, not think when they are on the floor.
§ Keith Wooden needs to be on the floor to counteract Oregon's height advantage.
§ Kevin Kruger and Jamal Hill need to continue their strong outside shooting.
I would really love to pick the Devils in an upset, but I cannot. Nothing this season has shown me that the players are going to "get it" and start playing smart basketball. Look for it to be close early, ASU to hit a scoring slump and get down by ten points in the first half, mount a rally in the second half, and lose by more than ten points. Ike will get his, especially taking the Oregon big men off the dribble, but a lack of defensive stops and the transition defense will allow Oregon easy buckets. ASU 70, Oregon 84.
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