Sun Devils Tame Huskies

Maturity is a characteristic that coach Rob Evans has used quite often in describing his team this year. Truer words have never been spoken. In its conference home opener ASU notched their second Pac-10 win routing Washington 89-57. It was another example of a predictable win that was overshadowed by a relentless display on both ends of the court. With this victory The Sun Devils' average win margin in the conference is 26 points – a rare sight in Tempe.

From the opening tip, it was quite evident that senior Tommy Smith was going to have the game of his life. He scored his team's first five points, which were consequently also the first points of the game. Nevertheless, the Huskies were fighting tooth and nail with the home team. ASU led 9-6 after five minutes, and at the 11:47 mark was still holding on to a slim margin of 15-13. Then the Sun Devils went on first of many runs on the night, and culminated 14-5 burst leading the visitors 29-18 with 7:36 left in the first half. Jamal Hill's six quick points of the bench were the biggest contributor during those four or so minutes. Solid play by Curtis Millage, along with Smith's defensive tenacity helped ASU hold on that 11-point margin, with a halftime score of 43-32. After 20 minutes Smith already had 12 boards, along with nine points. Two of his three blocks in the half came on the very last two plays of the period. The pesky Huskies came out of the locker room with renewed spirits, and closed the gap to 46-41 at the 17:43 mark of the second half. Hill and Kyle Dodd spearheaded a 19-8 rally that increased the Sun Devil margin to 65-49 with 9:35 left in the game. After a Smith crossover dribble and dunk the score increased to 77-53, and the crowd gave him and his team a standing ovation with 5:07 left in the contest. Some of the fans headed to the exits at that point, and those who stayed behind got to witness ASU's largest margin of victory this season to the tune of 89-57.

As mentioned, Tommy Smith was clearly the player who stood head and shoulders over the rest. The forward finished with 13 points, a career high 16 rebounds, five assists, and all while tying a career high six blocks. Millage led all scorers with 16 points. Diogu and Hill chipped in each with 14. This victory was naturally sparked by a fine defensive performance by the maroon and gold. ASU held Washington to 33.9% shooting, and dominated the boards 47-28. The team's 13 blocks and the 55.6 field goal shooting further illustrate the effort put forward by Evans' team on both ends of the floor.

Coach Evans commended his team for doing "A fine job defensively. Washington is the most athletic team we faced this season. We took them out of their game, and when they went one-one-one with us we contained them." The fifth year head coach has always preached that a solid defensive game will yield wins, and nothing manifests that point better than this win. "In this game our defense created our offense and fueled it. We don't do this every night, but we're still growing as a team…I feel that we're improving offensively and defensively." Evans was obviously proud of Tommy's Smith overall game. However, the "even keel" his team has had all year is a major contributor to its success. "We don't get too excited (after a win) or too disappointed (after a loss). After the Oregon loss we came back to work the next day and put the game behind us." Smith says that the fact that the team has "Six seniors helps us forget about our losses. We had good practices al week. Coach got on us in practice to play better on defense and focus on getting boards. Coach always talks about defense leading the offense and defense winning games." The senior doesn't deny that Diogu's solid play this season has helped him and others excel at their individual games. "I had a good game because of Ike. He gets tripled team, and then they forget about the others players. Even when he's tripled teamed he'll get his."

While this win has marked the six straight home victory over the visitors from Seattle, one cannot ignore the manner in which this win was accomplished. For the first time in the last few years, the Sun Devil faithful feel that this squad is more adept at putting teams away when it has to, en route to convincing wins. However, the need for short memory continues on Saturday, when ASU hosts Washington State. The team knows that this win has to be enjoyed for the least amount of time possible, in order to achieve a much needed sweep at home.

Sparky's SundriesForward Justin Allen sat out this game with an injury. His status for Saturday is unclear… Former Sun Devil and current NBA player Mike Batiste sat courtside in the second half with Memphis Grizzlies teammate Drew Gooden and others…Despite the overall solid play displayed by ASU in the last few weeks, one cannot help but be worried about starting point guard Jason Braxton. Many of his nine points and five assists came in garbage time, and he has clearly not found his niche yet this season. The often maligned Kyle Dodd has been doing an excellent job spelling the sophomore, and providing needed spark of the bench…The 7,020 in attendance were much more boisterous than their sheer numbers. The crowd did an excellent job showing its appreciation to the team and individual players such as Smith and Diogu. The crowd favorite continues to be seldom used Brandon Goldman who missed his only field goal attempt on the night. Wells Fargo Arena never sounds louder when the walk-on makes a basket. Judging by the margin of the last couple of victories, the senior can expect to get more playing time, and subsequent ovations, in the future.

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