Devils Edged by Trojans, Lose Second Game In a Row

Earlier in the week, ASU guard Kevin Kruger predicted that his team's game with USC would be "a track meet." When the final buzzer sounded Saturday night, the Sun Devils were the one left behind gasping for air after a 98-94 loss. The momentum following the bay area road wins has been wiped out in the last 48 hours following a sweep by the L.A. schools in Tempe.

With 22 points scored in the first five minutes of the contest, it was clear that we were about to witness an onslaught of baskets. At the 15:01 mark the score was tied at 11 apiece. Less than three minutes later USC (8-9, 1-5) lead 16-14 and was ahead of for virtually the rest of the night. Rory O'Neil's basket with 9:46 left in the half gave the visitors their biggest lead of the night 31-17. Kevin Kruger's three-point basket capped off a 13-4 run which cut the margin to 35-30 at the 3:31 mark. However, that's as close as ASU (13-4, 2-3) would get in the opening stanza, and both teams traded buckets until the eventual halftime score of 46-41.

ASU was able to tie the score at 51-51 at the 15:15 mark of the second half. A thunderous baseline dunk by Serge Angounou brings down the house and gives the home team a 58-56 lead with 11 minutes left, just to be answered with a long-range basket by Gabriel Pruitt in the ensuing possession. Jeff McMillan's basket midway through the second half made it 61-60, and consequently gave the Trojans the lead for good. ASU was able to make it a three point game late in the contest, but seven made three throws by USC in the last thirty seconds kept the maroon and gold at bay, while awarding the visitors their inaugural conference win.

Six Sun Devils were in double figures lead by Angounou who had a career high 20 points. Kruger added 17 on a cold night of shooting (5-13). Diogu had only seven shot attempts from the field en route to 15 points. Ten points were scored by three players Jason Braxton, Bryson Kruger, and Tim Pierce. While the Sun Devils had a successful night shooting from the field (52.5%) and the free throw line (79.3%), yielding 55.2% from the field and 50% (8-19) from three-point land was obviously not a recipe for success. ASU was also edged on the glass 34-30.

"Needless to say that I'm highly disappointed in this basketball game," said coach Rob Evans following the contest. "Not only the loss, but also how we played the game. I didn't think we came out with a purpose defensively, and as I told the team we're not gonna beat anybody giving up 100 points. This is tough loss for us because we built momentum with our wins last week, and we come back and lose two homes game this week. We have to start from scratch again." Evans added that Diogu, who fouled out with just under two minutes left in the game, wasn't moving enough to get more scoring chances, but also acknowledged the fact that the team wasn't getting the ball to him earlier in the game.

The ASU coach admitted that his team doesn't know how the handle success. The question now is if the team can effectively overcome adversity. A road trip to the Oregon schools may not be the ideal place to rebound from two tough losses, but nevertheless that's what the maroon and gold will try to attempt this coming week. The window of opportunity, as it pertains to reaching the NCAA tournament is certainly not as wide open as it was before this last home series. ASU will need to improve tactically and mentally in order to prevent what was once a promising 2004-05 campaign from turning into downward spiral.

Sparky's Sundries - Another strong crowd tonight at 8,752, which included once again a boisterous student section. Almost as entertaining as the game, was the exchange between one female USC fan who felt the need to taunt the entire section… ex-Sun Devil defensive lineman Jimmy Verdon was in attendance with his Terrell Suggs Ravens' jersey…some nights take longer than others, but we fail to recall a game where Diogu's double digit scoring streak was achieved with only 7:25 minutes left in the game. The junior reached his 12th point following a three-point basket…as far as we can remember, the dunk by Angounou, who missed a year and half with a knee injury, was his first one during a regular season game…Will Fameni, who has been seldom used in the last several games, had a solid night with six points and four boards in only ten minutes… not take anything away from the Trojans, but they got every bounce of the rim on Saturday night. Not matter how mundane or difficult the shot was, it eventually rattled through the net…

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