ASU Ends Season On A Losing Note

The 81-76 loss to Stanford was in a lot of ways a microcosm of the whole season. It was another game where the Sun Devils blew a golden opportunity to knock off a ranked team. And just like many other losses this year, it was horrendous free shooting (16 missed free throws) that prevented coach Evans' team from achieving victory. With three consecutive losses, ASU is limping into a Pac-10 tournament, which they must win in order to get into the NCAA tournament.

The first five minutes were a dual between ASU's Tommie Smith and Stanford's Curtis Borchardt. The score was 8-8 at the 15:56 mark, and Borchardt was able to pin two quick fouls on Chad Prewitt. Nevertheless, Smith and Awvee Storey help propel their team to a 23-17 lead at the 5:43 mark. From that point on, the Cardinal's Casey Jacobsen woke up from his slump and helped his team gain the lead 29-28 at the 3:18 mark, en route to a 37-32 half time score. The home team played very well the first ten minutes of the second half, and was able to regain the lead 47-46 with 12:47 left in the game. From that point on, ASU's blunders from the charity stripe helped the visitors from Palo Alto claim the lead that was never relinquished until the end. A 48-47 lead at the 11:42 mark of the second half grew to a 64-56 margin with 5:01 to go. Kenny Crandall's three pointer in the waning moments shrunk the Cardinal's lead to 67-65, but that's as close as the Devils came. ASU fouled Stanford repeatedly in hopes that they would mimic the home team's struggles at the line, but that never materialized.

82.1% vs. 55.6%. That was the edge Stanford had on ASU in free throw percentage, and that stat along with an unbelievable 49-31 rebounding edge fully explain ASU's reason for losing. A great defensive effort by the Sun Devils, who forced 24 turnovers and held Stanford to only 42.3% shooting, was negated by ASU's 38.5% field goal shooting. The Devils' seniors did shine in their last home game of the 2002 season. Prewitt was the leading ASU scorer with 18, and Storey had 15. Curtis Millage with 15 and Smith with 12 were the only other ASU players in double digits. Stanford's Jacobsen had 29 points, but it was Borchardt's 19 points, 17 boards, and four blocks, that were the real difference between both teams.

Coach Evans was visibly disappointed in his press conference: "It's a tough way to end the home season. We battled hard, but just didn't make the plays. We gave up a big rebound late in the game when they led by two, The top teams find ways to get those rebounds…We shoot a lot of free throws in practice. We shoot them in every possible way. We shot 80% in practice yesterday. Our leading free throw shooter (Shawn Redhage) was 1-4. We're always concerned about free throws. I can't figure out what the problem is. All we can do to work on it…We didn't capitalize on turnovers. We have to finish the small things like boxing out, making free throws, and taking care of the ball…The tournament will be exciting. A lot of rivals could be playing each other in the first round. We're looking forward to it."

It has become a three game season for ASU. If by some miracle the Devils do win all their games in the Pac-10 tournament, then it will be the NCAA and not the NIT that they'll playing in. Playing archrival Arizona in the first round adds that much more intrigue to this impossible mission. Maybe the Devils are due for a break, in a season where it endured more than its fair share of heartaches, like tonight.

Sparky's Sundries: ASU's seniors Brad Nahara, Storey, and Prewitt received loud ovations when introduced before tip–off. Storey got another rousing ovation, as he fouled out with 2:41 left in the game…It would be hard to find too many complaints with the officials. Stanford was actually called for one more foul than ASU, and shot only three more free throws…Jason Braxton played extremely undisciplined. On three different occasions he drove the lane just to have his shot blocked by Borchardt. At some point the freshman excuse cannot be used anymore, and Braxton who continues to struggle from the line and with his outside shot, will have to improve his all-around game to be a vital contributor to this team.

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