Devils Lose to Archrival in a Thriller

Saturday's Duel in the Desert came down to a man-to-man battle. Salim Stoudamire vs. Jason Braxton, a game tied at 68-68, with only seconds to on the game clock. Stoudamire made only one field in the second half, and as luck would have at it was the game winner with only 0.6 second left. Arizona edged ASU 70-68 in one of the most heartbreaking losses in this rivalry.

An old basketball cliché says that the sport is a game of runs. Never was it more evident at Wells Fargo Arena today. A 19-0 run, fueled by Stoudamire's sharp shooting gave the visitors a commanding 22-4 lead at the 13:50 mark. Some thought that this deficit was enough to determine the fate of the game early, but the home team begged to differ. 11 points by Ike Diogu, part of a 19-4 run, cut down the lead to 27-23 with 6:31 left in the first half. Kevin Kruger scored all of his points in the last three minutes of the first stanza, and his last three pointer of the game was scored seconds before the halftime buzzer to send ASU to the locker room trailing only 37-36.

Arizona came out roaring in the second half. Diogu was called for an intentional foul on Hassan Adams, and the Cats outscored ASU 11-0 in the first two and half minutes of the second half, to put their lead at 48-36 at the 17:25 mark. Two minutes later Diogu picks up his fourth foul, but the Cats weren't able to shake off the Devils. Back-to-back three pointers by Steve Moore and Diogu cut the lead to 58-56 with 7:39 left in the game, and Jason Braxton's lay-up gave his team their first lead of the game 61-60 at the 4:31 mark. Moore missed the front end of a one and one free throw, but atones shortly after with another basket behind the arc to give ASU its last lead of the contest 64-62 with 3:46 left. A pair of free throws by Diogu tied up the score at 68, with 48 seconds left. Adams missed his shot with about thirty seconds to go, but Stoudamire was able to grab the offensive rebound and following his team's timeout made his clutch jumper, which could have been called for traveling, to win the game.

Diogu paced all players with 25 points, and added five rebounds and two blocks. Moore had 16 points, and fellow outgoing senior Braxton had nine points. Braxton also had a team high nine rebounds and seven assists. The Devils struggled offensively shooting 37.5% from the field and 65% from the free throw line. They also lost the battle of the boards 43-38. Stoudamire led his team with 22 points.

"I thought it was a great basketball game by two teams who really battled tremendously hard for 40 minutes," said coach Rob Evans after the game. "A lot of guys made big shots. I thought our guys came out pretty focused. The game is a little bit like our whole season. We've came down to one or two plays or one or two calls, and we're already an NCAA tournament team."

On the crucial Arizona offensive rebound at the end of the game Evans commented: "I thought we were in position (to get it). We were in zone and it's tough to box out in zone. They have good athletes and they made a good play." Evans added that this zone defense, as well as, as a box-and-one scheme helped slow down the visitors at times. The ASU coach praised the play of Allen Morrill. "He played tough, and got some tough rebounds. He really gave us a lift."

A visibly disappointed Ike Diogu said following the game: "We had a solid week of practice, and we just really needed this one. I really wanted to get this for the seniors on the team. We just didn't do it." The normally reserved junior did admit that he was more emotional than usual during the game. "It was Jason and Steve's last game and I wanted to send them out on a winning note. We weren't executing. They played solid defense, but once we settled down and got in the flow of the game we were right there with them." Diogu attributed the big run in the first half that let the Devils back in the game, to nothing but sheer determination. "We had a refuse to lose attitude," he said. "Nobody really thought that we stood a chance against them. We wanted to prove everyone wrong. I felt like we deserved to win this game. We just let it slip away. We have a big challenge ahead of us, and we just have to forget this game and move on."

No team wishes to come into the Pac-10 tourney on a losing note, but alas the Sun Devils will have to shake off their three consecutive losses and face a very tough first round opponent – the University of Washington. In those three losses, ASU has played for the most part inspiring basketball. Next week in Los Angeles, the maroon and gold will have to find a way to turn inspiration into victories.

Sparky's Sundries Much has been said about the foul behavior of the student section in the games against Arizona, but on Saturday a large and vocal section kept the profanities to a minimum and gave the team a spirited lift. Maybe it was the players going up into the stands before the game exchanging high fives…prior to the game ASU honored its outgoing seniors Steve Moore, who's mom came to see play for the first time in his career, and Jason Braxton…Moore got the start because of this and turned in one of his best games of the year…there was the usual large contingent of Arizona supporters in the arena, which prompted one media member to wonder if a win by ASU should be considered a road victory from an RPI standpoint… kudos to ex-Sun Devil Brandon Goldman who made 3-5 free throws in contest that resulted in a 30% discount at the team shop after the game…

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