Devils Handle Ducks, Earn Road Split

Will the real ASU basketball team please stand up? Following a demolishing loss to Oregon State, their third defeat in a row, Rob Evans' squad was all but pronounced dead. Playing a formidable Oregon team, in arguably the toughest Pac-10 venue, was supposed to be the last shovel of dirt on the Sun Devils' 2004-05 campaign. However on Saturday night, the team from Tempe rose like the Phoenix, beat Oregon 64-51, and proved that there may be just more life to them than previously believed.

The Devils never trailed in the game, and for roughly 25 out of 40 minutes held a double-digit lead. Six straight points by Serge Angounou put ASU ahead 16-8 at the 12:37 mark of the first period. Kenny Love's jumper ended a 6-0 run, which brought the home team within a basket, 16-14, with 9:54 left in the half. That's as close as the Ducks would get all night to overtaking the lead. ASU's zone defense forced Oregon to the perimeter, where they repeatedly failed to convert their jump shots, and adjust their game offensively. On the other end of the floor, Ike Diogu makes one of two free throws to cap off a 15-3 run to give the maroon and gold a commanding 31-17 at the 3:39 mark. Both teams scored only two points each the rest of the period, and the Devils went to the locker room with a 33-19 lead.

In the second stanza both teams answered each other's punches, but the Ducks managed to inch a bit closer when Malik Hairston's jumper made it 39-29 at the 12:59 mark of the half. Bryson Krueger's three-point basket with 7:22 left in the game helped ASU increase their margin to 49-33, while the Sun Devils' zone forced a plethora of bad shots by the Ducks. In the remaining moments of the game, the only mystery remaining was whether Diogu's national best double-digit scoring would continue. Thanks to unexplainable fouling by Oregon when the game was clearly out of reach, the junior was able to sink in two charity stripe buckets with just over 20 seconds in the game and collected his ninth and tenth points. Diogu gets a chance a chance to keep his streak alive and ASU gets a must win on the road – mission accomplished through and through.

Angounou paced his team with 20 points and tied a game high 10 rebounds. Diogu also had ten boards, and along with his ten points netted his ninth double double of the season. While ASU only shot 36.5% from the line, their effective defense held Oregon to a dismal 28.6%, which is by far the best performance of the year by the Sun Devils on this end of the floor. Both teams were tied at 39 rebounds, and ASU was able to survive 20 offensive rebounds by the Ducks. Hairston had 17 points to lead the Ducks.

ASU's 64 points are a season-low, but their defense more than made up for the difference. This may be the formula the Devils will have to continue, since they have proved that they won't be able to outrun and outscore their opponents. The next two weeks bring with them a four-game home stand, and a chance to turn around a season that was believed to be circling the drain. There are reasons to be smiling if you're a member of the basketball team or just a fan. Nevertheless, there's obviously much more work ahead for the maroon and gold if they do truly want to achieve their loftiest goals. Cashing in on its momentum eluded the Sun Devils following their bay area road sweep. Next week the team must prevent history from repeating itself.

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