Devils Edge Cougars, Capture First Pac-10 Home Win

Once upon a time when Ike Diogu and Serge Angounou first arrived in Tempe, it was the later that was the brighter star of the two during the team's pre-season practices. Since his injury, Angounou's fortunes went south, while Diogu's rose to national heights. Nevertheless, there was always anticipation for Angounou to display his full potential. In Thursday's 68-62 win, he was perfect from the filed and the line, which once again proved the measure of impact he can have on this season.

The visitors from Pullman were actually in control the first few minutes, as Jeff Varem's jumper gave Washington State (8-9, 3-5) an 11-4 lead at the 14:37 mark. Arizona State (15-5, 4-4) answered with a 9-0 run, which was capped off by Angounou's basket with 7:57 left in the half. A trio of three pointers by Kevin Kruger pushed the margin to 31-20 at the 3:16 mark, and the Sun Devils manage to keep a double-digit lead going into halftime where the score was 33-23.

ASU opened the second half in convincing fashion, and another long-range basket by Kruger awarded his team with a 42-29 lead at the 14:58 mark of the second half. The Cougars outscored the Devils 10-0 to come within three 42-39 just two and half minutes later. ASU bounced back to a ten-point lead 54-44 with 7:50 left in the half, and as hard as Washington State battled, they could not come closer than three points. Even two turnovers by Steve Moore, while in bounding the ball, in the last twenty seconds of the game, were not strong enough to wrestle away this first conference victory at home.

Undoubtedly, Angounou had a night to remember. The sophomore was 7-7 from the field, 4-4 from the line, while collecting ten caroms. Diogu notched another double double with 15 points and 13 boards. Kevin Kruger with 14 and Bryson Krueger with 13 rounded out the double-digit scorers for ASU. The Sun Devils won the battle of the boards convincingly 37-23, and were exceptionally well from the line shooting 81.8%. WSU's Jeff Varem led all players with 24 points.

"I'm really proud of this basketball team and the way that they battled, " said coach Rob Evans following the game. "This in our 20th ball game that we played, we're 15-5, and in 18 of the ball games I felt like we played very well. They finished the game with a ‘W' and that's the most important thing."

Evans was impressed by Angounou's performance, but he believed he could play even better. "I think if you ask him," Evans commented," he'll tell you he can play better. He's just now starting to feel good. I try to tell you guys two years ago what he was like, and you're starting to see a little bit what he is like when he's healthy."

When interviewed, Angounou seemed mostly unfazed of his fine performance against the Cougars. When asked how it felt to be perfect from both the field and the line, he quipped, "It's a good thing (smile)." He credited his faith for helping him heal mentally, as well as physically, from a severe knee injury. Serge's last field goal was almost from three-point land, and came right before the 35-second clock was about to expire with less than two minutes to go. "The clock started going down," he recalled, "and I worked in practice (on my shot) and I did what I always do. Sometimes I surprise even myself (smile). It was a good night, but I didn't play good defense."

The Sun Devils get an extra day off, as they prepare for a rare Sunday game against Washington. The Huskies lost to Arizona in Tucson just minutes before the ASU victory, and the nationally ranked visitors from Seattle will give the maroon and gold everything they can to avoid a sweep in the desert. A victory on Sunday won't only be a boost in confidence or improve Pac-10 standing, but also do wonders to ASU's RPI and greatly aid it chances of playing in the NCAA tournament. At a Pac-10 record of 4-4, it's almost as the slate has been wiped clean at the midway mark of conference play. Now is the time for the Sun Devils to make their move and reestablish the feelings of confidence that were so prevalent around the team just a couple of weeks ago.

Sparky's Sundries It was a solid showing by the ASU's defense, and at one point caused a rare 10-second half court violation late in the first half…Thursday marked the first Pac-10 home game since school was back in session, and the students didn't disappoint with their attendance. Their comical chants "Get a Haircut" toward Varem may or may not have caused the player to miss two crucial shots from the charity stripe with just over thirty seconds in the game…those missed shots came after a controversial fifth foul on Ike Diogu, who seemingly blocked Varem in a clean matter…former basketball player Shawn Redhage was outnumbered in the stands by a plethora of current football players such as Terry Richardson and Dale Robinson, as well former players Solomon Bates and Willie Daniel…close but no cigar for offensive lineman Julius Orieukwu, who despite his noble cheering efforts, missed out on the MaCayo's Mexican food giveaway which landed just a few feet from him in the hands of a young ASU fan. Oh well, the training table will still be there…

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