Devils Edge Pesky Matadors

The first game back from a long road trip is usually prime time for a home team to come out flat. Sure enough, Arizona State, off a coast-to-coast three-game six-day road trip, was in danger of losing its first home game of the season to Cal State Northridge. Whether this qualifies as an excuse for their performance or not, many will have differing opinions. However, no one can question the Sun Devils' resolve as they came back from a second half 14-point deficit to win 67-66.

The begining moments of the first stanza offered no clue to what was about to come. A three-point basket by Bryson Krueger put the Devils ahead 11-2 at the 15:25 mark. Ike Diogu notched his second foul with 11:09 left in the half, and was on the sidelines the rest of the half. That coupled with a stifling zone trap defense, allowed the Matadors to cut the lead to 23-21 with Ian Boylan's basket at the 6:30 mark. A three pointer and a dunk by former Chandler-Gilbert community college's Davin White gave the visitors their first lead of the game 26-25 with just over three minutes left in the half. Minutes later, White adds another long-range bomb to send his team to the locker room with a 32-27 lead.

Matters went from bad to worse for Rob Evans' squad in the second half. Not only did they go over four minutes without a field goal, but also they saw Northridge's lead mushroom to double-digit territory. Boylan's lay-up put his team up 42-30 at the 16:30 mark. Four consecutive Diogu free throws along with a Steve Moore's three pointer cut the lead to 42-37 with 14:11 left in the game. The Matadors switched back to their zone trap, and their margin increased accordingly. Boylan, who else, sinks in two from the charity stripe to give the visitors their biggest lead of the game 55-41 at the 9:47 mark. However, at this point Northridge amazingly switches out from the defense that has baffled ASU all afternoon, and the maroon and gold take full advantage of it. Two free throws by Diogu gave the Sun Devils the lead back 58-57 at the 3:25 mark, and a seesaw battle ensued since then. Diogu's two dunks were negated by Boylan's three-point basket, and both teams find themselves tied at 64-64 with 1:25 left in the contest. Moore commits his sixth turnover, and Calvin Chitwood puts the visitors on top 66-64 with only 32 seconds left. The senior however redeems himself, takes full advantage of being fouled behind the arc, and scores the last three points of the game from the free throw line with 14 ticks remaining on the clock. Two missed jumpers by Northridge in the last two seconds leaves them short of an upset, and Serge Angounou secures a precious rebound and the win.

Diogu finished with 25 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. More importantly, he had no fouls in the second half. Moore had 20, including 3-7 from beyond the arc. Angounou added 11 boards, and Kevin Krueger who was 1-7 from the field had five assists. ASU shot 37.3% from the floor, but also 81.8% from the charity stripe. Their impressive 47-31 edge on the glass was nearly annulled by their 23 turnovers – 14 of them in the second half. Boylan led all players on the floor with 26.

"This was a good comeback win for us," said Rob Evans. "Our guys came out early in the ball game and were pretty focused and ready to play. They changed defenses and got us back on our heels. I thought we lost some concentration, turned the ball over, took some ill advised shots…all in all it was a good win - the way we won it to come back from adversity."

Evans downgraded the effect that the visitors' zone had on his team. "I don't think it was the zone," he claimed. "It was our inability to attack it. We didn't attack their man (defense) very well. The 1-3-1 half court trap – we worked on it. Our guys didn't execute it, and tried to make plays on their own."

"This was a tough game for us," Evans continued. "A Noon ball game, coming back off a week long road trip. I know the guys are tired, because I'm tired. To come back and win a ball game like this, after being down, that says a little bit about our basketball team."

"We were just making mental mistakes," said Diogu on the period of time where his team found itself down by 14. "Dribble through double teams, things like that…but once we corrected that we started scoring and rolling from there." The junior did dismiss the notion that his team's play was a result of fatigue. "I would say that's an excuse. The bottom line is that you go out there and play every game. It doesn't matter how long you've been on the road. You have to go out there and play. We weren't overconfident. We played well early and didn't close it like we should have."

"We work on free throws every day," said Steve Moore on his game clinching free throws. "I knew that if I went up to the line I would hit them. I like the ball in my hands in that situation. I've been like that ever since I was young. Plus, I didn't want coach Evans yelling at me for not having the ball (smile)."

Moore had his own theory as to his team's struggles on Saturday "I think we actually looked at what the jersey said, instead of who the players are," he stated. "It's funny because I know just about all the players on the team back from L.A. I told my teammates that I really want to beat them. I told them we have to beat them by 30, so when I go home they won't be talking that mess. A win is a win, so we'll take it."

Maybe we all should, like Moore, be pragmatic and happy over a win. No one will argue that this wasn't a thing of beauty, and that this effort against most Pac-10 teams would put victory long out of reach. One can only hope that the Sun Devils aren't suffering from exhaustion, since they have to be back on Monday night for a match against Fairleigh Dickinson. Was this win the jolt or wake-up call that the maroon and gold needed? The next few games should provide an answer to that question.

Sparky's Sundries With locals Davin White and Calvin Chitwood playing for Northridge, the visitors has noisy contingent at Wells Fargo arena. Unlike other visiting fans, they were well behaved and didn't make it a point to engage in verbal wars with the home fans…The 7,967 reported in attendance did a good job to rally behind the team…when did they start selling Pizza Hut in the arena?…ASU's struggles in a nut shell were during the second half where after a team timeout, Moore was trapped in a corner and forced to call another timeout to avoid a turnover…The Devils lack of aggressiveness in the first half was evident by the fact that they had only one free throw during that time…

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