Huskies Hold Off Devils

Thursday's night game at Washington was a golden opportunity for ASU to notch that elusive quality win that could aid in their quest to qualify for the NCAA tournament. And no one will deny that the maroon and gold played with a keen sense of urgency and determination, and left it all on the floor of the Bank of America arena in their 90-82 loss. But sometimes your best isn't enough, especially when you go up against one of the best teams in the conference.

Six points by Braxton is a span of one minute, kept ASU (18-10, 7-9) in reach and trailing 13-8 at the 16:48 mark of the first half. Washington (22-4, 12-3) wasn't able to break away, and the Devils hung around close enough to make their mark. Two Steve Moore's free throws tied the game at 24-24 with 8:32 left in the half, and later on Ike Diogu's dunk gave his team its biggest lead 31-26 at the 5:35 mark. Washington's Nate Robinson, was plagued by early foul trouble, scored all his squad's points on an 11-0 run, to reclaim the lead and this time for good, 37-32 with 3:18 remaining in the first half. Moore's three pointer with six seconds left in the game concluded the first half scoring at 44-41, with momentum slightly on the Sun Devils' side.

The Huskies' Tre Simmons came alive in the second stanza, and his 12 points in the first six minutes gave the hosts their biggest margin 58-48. A rare dunk by Tyrone Jackson keeps matters close, and cuts down the lead to 59-56 close to midway through the second period. With 7:37 left in the game, Diogu keeps hope alive and ASU trailing only 69-67. But that's as close as the visitors would get. The hot shooting Husky offense made sure that their own feat of an undefeated season at home is alive and well, and was rewarded for their aggressiveness.

Diogu lead all players with 31 points and 15 rebounds. He was near perfect at the line making 17-18 shots. Kevin Krueger added 17, including 5-9 from behind the arc. Jason Braxton and Steve Moore added 10 points each and rounded up the list of ASU players to score in double figures. The Sun Devils edged the hosts 30-25 on the glass, and along with their 90.9% free throw shooting (29-32) allowed them to keep the game at arm's length. However, 17 turnovers and 39% field goal shooting (compared to UW's 55.4%) are probably the most telling stats of this loss. Simmons paced his squad with 29 points.

A moral victory is a concept many don't accept, but for the sake of the Devils one would hope that the manner in which Rob Evans' team played did provide a measure of confidence as they play at Washington State on Saturday. A victory at Pullman, keeps the dim hopes of notching a berth in March Madness alive. A loss makes winning the Pac-10 tournament the only scenario in which ASU will be part of the field of 64.

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