Devils Lose a Heartbreaker To the Trojans

Splitting the Los Angeles road trip in the Pac-10 is a feat that most of the conference teams would welcome with open arms. Nevertheless, ASU cannot find much solace tonight. A golden opportunity to sweep the Southern California teams on their courts slipped by the Sun Devils who were edged 76-74 by USC.

ASU's 15 turnovers in the first half never allowed them to sustain any positive momentum in that period. The Trojans jumped to a 5-0 lead in the first two minutes, but a 9-0 run capped off by an Ike Diogu's three point jumper gave the Devils a 9-5 lead at the 15:00 minute mark. A Shawn Redhage jumper with 9:50 to go in the first half, helped the visitors from Tempe hold a modest 20-17 margin, and also marked the last time ASU would enjoy a lead in the first twenty minutes. A Trojan 18-9 run gave the home team a 35-29 lead with 4:30 left in the first half. USC was able to enjoy a brief 10 point lead, before ASU' Kyle Dodd nailed a three pointer to send his team to the locker room down 43-36.

Many Basketball coaches would tell you that the first five minutes of the second half are extremely crucial to the outcome of the game. Unfortunately that theory didn't come to fruition tonight. The Sun Devils were masterful during those first few minutes, going on a 8-0 run fueled by Donnel Knight's six points to give the Devils a 44-43 lead with 16:55 left in the game. At that point USC unleashed its own fury going on a 17-7 run to grab the lead back and take command to the tune of a 60-51 score at the 9:50 mark. It would seem that this last Trojan run was enough to seal the Sun Devils' fate, but ASU had other plans in mind. Curtis Milage, playing only blocks away from his Los Angeles home, scored his only points in the game on back-to-back three pointers which tied the game at 72 with 2:10 left in the game. A USC miss gave ASU the ball with 40 seconds left in the game. However an ill executed possession, which resulted in a weak shot attempt by Jamal Hill gave the Trojans the ball back. A questionable foul call on Tommy Smith with just less than four seconds to go, allowed USC to sink two free throws, which were the final points of the game. Millage's desperation three point shot at the buzzer could have been the Hollywood ending in the movie capital of the world, but evidently the game's script just didn't include a victory by the Sun Devils.

Diogu paced the Sun Devils with 24 points. He missed only two field goal attempts and one free throw. Donnell Knight turned in another fine performance with 13 points, and Tommy Smith joined him in the double-digit category with 11 points. The senior was the team's top rebounder (along with Milage) snaring eight boards. Ironically, Smith who's a 56% free shooter was a spectacular 7-8 from the charity stripe. Overall, this was a night where the whole team followed up a horrible free throw performance two nights ago at UCLA – shooting 20-23 for 87%. Millage's 2-7 field goal shooting coupled with Jason Braxton's 2-10 naturally crippled the Sun Devils' offense. ASU shot 46.1% from the field, and led USC 34-30 on the glass.

This just concluded road trip is somewhat similar to the Oregon one which started the season - a dominating win was followed by a tough to swallow loss. Following the Oregon trip, Rob Evans' team showed no ill effects and played some of its best games this season. However, ASU's next game is against its archrival in Tucson, and repeating history may encounter tall hurdles to overcome.

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