Devils Demolish Bucknell Bison

Maybe you can't always get what you want, but on Friday night, Arizona State's men's basketball team got a lot of what it needed --- a chance to show off some of their vaunted potential against an accommodating visiting team from Bucknell University. And show off they did, winning 79-52 in a game that even put a smile or two on Head Coach Rob Evans' normally stoic face.

Playing in the second game of the azcentral.com Hoops Classic, the host team faced what has become inevitable for the hot- and cold-shooting Devils --- a 2-3 match-up zone. But this time, the Devils were ready. Coach Evans had clearly taken advantage of the semester-end lull in the schedule to work on scoring against all manner of zone defenses. And it showed. After five-minutes of to-ing and fro-ing, the Devils began pulling away from their overmatched guests. By the first half's 6:00 minute mark, any suspense was gone with a decisive 12-0 Sun Devil run, sparked by 2 Curtis Millage (SG) steals and several put-back baskets by forward Donnell Knight. Center Ike Diogu finished with 16 points and Knight added 15, along with 5 rebounds in what was probably Donnell's best all-around game of the season.

Diogu and Knight were helped by a strong supporting cast that qualified the Devils for the tournament's final game. Curtis Millage complemented his 13 points with 5 assists and 3 steals, each leading to breakaway baskets. Forward Jamal Hill capped a 23-6 run midway through the second half with two nothing-but-net 3-pointers and Shawn Redhage (PF) made another solid contribution, scoring 9 points in 16 minutes and hitting 4 of his 5 attempts from the floor. With 9:30 to go in the second half, the scoreboard read 62-28 and the ASU bench was cleared. In fact, the Devils' field goal percentage for the game was a sizzling 63.3 % (in embarrassing contrast to their 61.9 % shooting from the line).

But what really made Coach Evans smile was his team's defensive intensity. ASU's harassing man-to-man defense caused the Bison to turn the ball over 21 times, 11 of which were caused by Sun Devil thievery. Seldom have ASU fans been treated to the fast-break offense-from-defense that was Evans' hallmark at the University of Mississippi, but they saw plenty of that on Friday. So did Coach Evans. A smiling Coach Evans.

Player of the game? None of the above. Instead, it was Tommy Smith. Yes, 6' 11" Tommy Smith, he of the 4 points and 1 (that's right, ONE) rebound. He also had 3 blocked shots, 3 steals and 7 (SEVEN) assists. Many of Donnell Knight's points came from Tommy Smith feeds. But most important, Tommy was in control of the opposition as well as his own game, all the while assuming the unlikely mantle of role player. A great lesson for Smith. And his teammates.

Arizona State will play a well-coached and highly disciplined Nebraska Cornhusker team in the finals of the azcentral.com Hoops Classic on Saturday, December 29. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

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