Diogu Domination

OK, let's make sure we get this straight. Lute Olson takes an indirect shot at Ike Diogu, claiming that only Pac-10 stats should count in the Pac-10 player of year award, and Stanford's Trent Johnson inexplicitly decides to play the ASU junior man-to-man tonight. For the whole 40 minutes. Well, Diogu and his career high 39 points thank all the above for the extra motivation. The Sun Devils handled Stanford 74-67, and earned their first sweep over the Cardinal since the 1993-94 season.

The first half was sloppy beyond belief. The home team trailed 11-4 following a Nick Robinson jumper at the 13:11 mark of the first half. Ten points by Ike Diogu, who had nineteen in the first stanza, brings ASU closer 23-19 with 4:37 left in the half. Back to back three pointers by Diogu and Kevin Kruger set the score at 27-23 a minute later. The home team was scoreless from here on out, but the visitors from Palo Alto can't capitalize, and they go to the locker room trailing 27-25.

Diogu lead the halftime talk vowing not to let his team lose to Stanford. His four points, along with long range baskets by Bryson Krueger and Steve Moore ignited a 12-4 run that put ASU's lead in double digits for the first time 39-29 at the 15:49 mark of the second half. A minute and half later, Stanford scored eight unanswered points to come within two. However that as close as they would come to regaining the lead, as Diogu's 20 points in the period were too much to overcome. The Cardinal came once again within a bucket 59-57 with 2:31 remaining in the game, and sent the Devils to line 14 times the rest of the way. The maroon and gold made all but one shot, en route to a rare season sweep of Stanford.

Diogu added 11 rebounds and collected his 12th double double of the year. His 16-26 shooting, just like his total points, were both career highs in shots made and attempted. The forward also knocked down all of his six free throws. Kruger was the only other Sun Devil player in double figures with 15, which included 9-10 from the charity stripe. ASU overcame a 32-27 deficit on the glass, much thanks to the 20 turnovers they forced. Their 90.9% free throw percentage ranks as the best effort of the season. Nick Robinson paced the visitors with 17 points.

"I thought our team came out tonight, especially in the second and half, and really executed," said Rob Evans. He quipped by asking if Diogu notched a double double and added: "Let's see what they'll put there (in the media) tomorrow about Ike Diogu. See if he did anything good."

"One thing you don't want to do is challenge him," Evans continued. "You challenge him and he'll come back like he did tonight. He said at the half that he wasn't gonna let this team lose the ball game. He went out in the second half and followed through on his promise." The ASU coach added that the last two practices were very productive, and that the defensive effort of his squad is largely responsible for Thursday's victory.

In regards to the questionable selection of defense by Stanford, Evans wasn't surprised. "They did a pretty good job on him in the first half in single coverage," he said. "They pretty much did the same thing to him in Palo Alto. We got pretty good shooters and they wanted to make sure that they stay with the shooters."

Diogu admitted that this night was indeed a very special one. "It just felt that I was in a zone," he commented. "There has been a lot of stuff said, a lot of people telling me a lot of things…coach just challenged me, guards got me the ball where I can score and I just put it in. Whatever it took to win the game, I was gonna make sure that I get it done."

When asked about Stanford's ineffective man-to-man defensive strategy on him, he replied: "I didn't have a problem with it (smile). I just knew this was a game that we had to win. Losing at any point of the game didn't even cross my mind. We always play Stanford close, and I was tired of losing by one point. Two years of losing the same way – I couldn't handle that for a third year. I just did whatever I had to do to make sure our team won this game."

The pre-season All-American doesn't feel that this display was something that had to be done to perhaps answer those who were starting to doubt his abilities. "I don't feel like I have anything to prove. I go out and play every day and whatever happens happens. I know I can play."

One thing is for certain. Cal, ASU's next opponent, is likely to play man-to-man for 40 minutes, as likely as a snowstorm will hit Maricopa County this year. Not that tonight's game was a walk in the park, but Saturday's game should be a much stiffer test. A victory will put ASU over the .500 mark in Pac-10 play and provide a glimmer of hope for Rob Evans' team quest of being part of the big dance. Needless to say, that It will take much more than a Diogu career night to achieve that feat.

Sparky's Sundries: Last game against Washington, the student section was engaged in so much profanity, that would made Andrew Dice Clay blush. Tonight against Stanford, the students came to blows with some Stanford fans. We hate to think what the Cal game on Saturday will bring…the season of struggle continues for Steve Moore who was 2-8 and scored five points. However his defensive effort limited Dan Grunfeld to 10 points, 20% shooting, and no field goals in the second half…it doesn't take a Dave Libbey to make an officiating crew horrible. Thursday's night men in stripes' performance was beyond inadequate. It shouldn't come as no surprise that they had the audacity to call a foul with one tenth of a second left in a game that was out of reach…

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