First Half Woes Doom ASU in Rivalry Game

This game should have been over in the first half. The Arizona Wildcats could not miss if they wanted to, and the Sun Devils could not hit the broad side of a barn. Nevertheless, ASU mounted a strong comeback in the second half, but all it could do is prevent an embarrassing defeat. The end result was a 71-63 loss to Arizona in Tucson.

ASU never led in the game, and at the 12:55 mark their deficit already had reached double digits as they trailed 17-5. It only got worse from there. The Devils were ice cold in that half shooting (25%) and sloppy (11 turnovers). Those two factors were the perfect ingredient for Arizona to balloon their lead and end the half with a 40-20 lead. If Rob Evans' team were going to stage a comeback, one would think it would take place early in the second half. Ironically, the only event that did occur during the first few minutes of the second half was the home team reaching their biggest lead of the night 51-25 at the 14:48 mark. The Wildcats got complacent, and the Devils started gaining ground. Ike Diogu and Curtis Millage sparked a 13-2 run that cut the Arizona lead to 53-38. Kenny Crandall who was red hot behind the arc, and helped knock down the Devils' deficit into single digits 61-53 with 5:59 left in the game. However, from that point on both team were literally trading baskets. ASU wasn't able to get closer than five points, and Arizona cashed in on their frequent trips to the charity stripe.

Millage led all scorers with 20 and tied for the team lead with six rebounds. Most of Ike Diogu's 15 points came from the free throw line where he was 9-11. Kenny Crandall was sizzling off the bench scoring 12 points on 4-7 shooting from three-point land. Shawn Redhage was the fourth and last Sun Devil to score in double figures with 10, and tied Millage with six boards. Tommy Smith was virtually non-existent fouling out with no points and Jason Braxton's sub par performance (only a single point) didn't help matters to say the least. Arizona's stifling defense, especially in the first twenty minutes, caused the one of the conference leaders in field goal shooting muster only 35.1%. Ironically, the free throw struggling Devils easily out shot their opponent from the line 81%-55%. The Devils lost the battle of the boards 34-31, and that stat along with their 19 turnovers are just two more indicators of the kind of night that took place in Tucson on Wednesday.

Another week, another close loss for ASU. Once again the Devils dug themselves a huge hole in the first half on the road, which negated a fine played second half. While a defeat to Arizona was predictable, Rob Evans' team has every right to feel disappointed. Facing California next week, currently the only other unbeaten team in conference play, cannot be a comforting thought for the boys from Tempe. If the Sun Devils want to live up to the pre-season hype and the national accolades bestowed on them as of late, they must make a stand against the bay schools at home next week. With ASU's Donnell Knight's playing prospects in academic limbo (which possibly may sideline him for the rest of the year), the Sun Devils may be hard pressed to stop their two-game slide. Time will tell if Arizona State is down for the count or will get up swinging and renew the confidence they enjoyed not too long ago…

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