Devils Buck Pesky Broncos

No one believed that playing Santa Clara, who has beaten the likes of North Carolina and Stanford, would be a walk in the park. Tonight, while ASU lead from the opening tip, their margin rarely dipped into the double digits, as they fended off the visitors from northern California 68-63.

Just like he did on Monday, Serge Angounou scored six points in the opening minutes of the game, as ASU lead Santa Clara 10-6 at the 15:12 mark. Travis Niesen help bring back his team from a deficit and his jumper with 8:18 left in the half tied the game at 20-20. Ike Diogu throws down a thunderous dunk following a nice backboard setup by Steve Moore, to put the Devils on top 31-23 at the 2:18 mark. The Broncos Kyle Bailey scored six points as the clock winded down in the first half, and sent his team to the locker room trailing only by four, 33-29.

Diogu's jumper had the Devils enjoy a 44-35 lead at the 13:08 mark of the second half, but Bailey once again brings back the Broncos into the game trailing only 44-42 with 9:22 left in the game. Consecutive three-point baskets by Steve Moore and Kevin Kruger propelled the home team to a 57-47 lead at the 6:18 mark, but once again Bailey and Santa Clara shrunk that margin to 60-56 with 2:22 remaining in the contest. The visitors sent ASU several times to the charity stripe in the last couple minutes of the game, and while not spectacular from the free throw line ASU did just enough to preserve the precious victory.

Diogu poured in 21 points, and his tenacious defense contributed to tying a career high in rebounds with 18, as well as achieving a career high with seven blocks. Moore had 12 points, and joined Angounou's 11 and Kruger's 10 as the only ASU players in double figures. Santa Clara's Bailey had 23. The home team was 20% from behind the arc and 64.3% from the free throw line. The Sun Devils had a 45-37 edge on the boards.

"Our defense in the second half was very solid," said Evans of his team who forced the visitors into 30.8% shooting during that period. "This is tough game to play this time of the year, but I'm pretty proud of the guys. They played hard, didn't always execute like I wanted them to, but were able to come out with the victory."

"We're not the type of team that's just gonna blow teams away," Evans continued. "They're not many of those teams in the country. We have to try to win ball games. You have to remember that we were picked to finish tenth in this league. That being the case, I'm just happy that we're 9-1 and winning ball games. To me a one-point win is a rout…I see a tremendous amount of progress on this basketball team. This is a different basketball team. These guys have a year of experience behind them. Last year we had seven freshmen and one junior college transfer. This year Tim Pierce is a true freshman and has given me enough gray hairs, and last year I had seven of them…"

This victory sends the Sun Devil basketball team in to the Christmas holiday with a little extra cheer. At 9-1 ASU is one victory away from matching its total from last year, and were still 10 days away from tipping-off the Pac-10 season. Success breeds confidence, and the maroon and gold are beaming with that quality these days. The results on the hardwood speak from themselves.

Sparky's Sundries: Santa Clara had by far the largest contingent of any visiting team this season. However, the most notable absence was Broncos alum and Phoenix Suns star Steve Nash…The Broncos' fans did a good job cheering their team, but yelling "overrated" towards Ike Diogu is a bit of a stretch…Something has to be done about Tim Pierce's hairdo. The corn rows must come back…The 6,812 in attendance cheered loudly as the Sun Devils' women team was congratulated for their landmark win over UConn last night.

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