Devils Edged Again at Home

We hate to use the same adjectives in a span of 48 hours, but once again words like heartbreaking loss and déjà vu are necessary to describe an ASU home game. The Sun Devils missed a golden opportunity to knock off a ranked opponent and notch their first conference win this season, as UCLA's Jordan Farmar's driving basket with 3.6 seconds left in the contest to dropped ASU 61-60.

Arizona State (6-7, 0-4 Pac-10) limited UCLA (13-2, 3-1) to 24% shooting in the first half, but never was able to gain a sizeable lead. Jeff Pendergraph scored eight points in less than seven minutes to give the home team a 12-9 edge at the 13:10 mark. The Bruins led briefly, but thanks to Serge Angounou and his 14 first half points the Sun Devils reclaimed the lead and in fact didn't relinquish it for the last nine plus minutes of the first stanza. The halftime score was 29-23 and momentum was on ASU's side.

Many expected the visitors to come out storming in the second half and sure enough they did, albeit not in the first few minutes. Aaron Afflalo scored 15 points during this period, and made good on all his 12 free throw shots. He was the driving force for the Bruins who tied up matters at 40 apiece at the 12:58 mark. However, UCLA, much like the Devils in the first half, were never able to enjoy a sizeable margin. A three pointer by Kevin Kruger and a three-point play by Angounou tied the score at 54-54 with 2:26 left in the game. Farmar gave his team a 59-57 lead with 35 seconds left, and was answered by Bryson Krueger's long range shot that awarded the Sun Devils their last lead of the game 60-59 with 12 seconds left. Farmar's heroics a few seconds later brought misery once again to the ASU team and its followers.

Angounou led all players on the floor with 23 points, which was a career-high for the junior. Pendergraph and Kevin Kruger had 11 points each. Antwi Atuahene started for the first time and didn't disappoint with team-highs in both rebounds and assists (seven in both categories), to go along with his eight points. Afflalo paced the Bruins with 21 points. ASU held UCLA to 36% shooting overall, including 1-15 from behind the arc. The visitors had the rebound edge 38-29, including 11 offensive boards. The story of the game were undoubtedly the free throw situation. Granted, ASU shot themselves in the foot with 46.2% success rate. However, highly questionable officiating granted the Bruins 29 free throw attempts to the Sun Devils' 13.

"I'm really proud of these kids," said Coach Rob Evans after the game. "To come out this afternoon and battle the way they battled after a devastating loss less than 48 hours (ago). I thought they did everything we asked them to do to prepare and win the basketball game. Every possession we had, we got good looks and good shots. There's a lot of wet eyes in that locker room and that tells me that they want to win and want to win bad."

"I don't ever make excuses to why you win or lose," Evans continued. "But the stat that jumps at you is the free throws. 29 to 13 at home is unacceptable. I thought we did a great job of attacking the basket, putting the ball inside…we did everything we needed to do to go to the free throw line." The Sun Devil skipper also cited the fouling out of Jeff Pendergraph who suffered from "ticky-tack" fouls called on him.

Evans said that he was content with the job his squad did defending Farmar and his game winning shot. "I thought we did a good job defensively, but great players make great plays," he remarked. "He had to shoot the ball over somebody, he just didn't get to the cup…he just made a great play. We had one timeout left and I thought about calling it, but they (UCLA) didn't have any. I didn't want to do anything to set them up. I thought we did a good job containing, he had a good angle, and made a great play."

The ASU coach commended the play of Angounou and Atuahene "Serge is really relaxing and getting better," said Evans. "He's a lot more aggressive and he's enjoying playing because he's playing with a little less pain than he has been…Antwi is aggressive…he's going to be a great player. He's here for three years and he has to continue to get better. You don't reward guys until they start to earn it, and he started to earn the time he was given"

ASU will meet the Oregon Ducks on Thursday. Tip-off is set for 8PM Arizona time.

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