ASU Loses a Heartbreaker to Stanford 58-57

How many times do your hear coaches say, "We didn't do the little things"? Undoubtedly, coach Rob Evans and his staff are uttering that sentence today. Failure to box out on a missed Stanford free throw in the last minute of the game ultimately cost the Sun Devils a home sweep of the bay schools. Nevertheless, there were other factors that contributed to ASU's third loss in the last four games.

The Sun Devils came out blazing out of the gates jumping to a 10-2 lead in the first five minutes. However when Stanford abandoned their man-to-man defense in favor of the zone, they were able to considerably slow down the home team, and grab their first lead 16-15 with 8:27 left in the first half. Julius Barnes and Josh Childress were the main culprits behind the 14-5 run, and the Cardinal never relinquished the lead in the first twenty minutes and went down to the locker room with a slim 26-24 lead. ASU was ice cold in the first half shooting only 26.7%, but their defense limited Stanford to only 31.2%.

The start of the second half had the same theme as the first one. The Sun Devils rallied to a 12-5 run to lead 36-31 at the 14:56 mark. However ASU went cold again from the field and the free throw line, allowing the Cardinal to reclaim the lead 49-48 with 5:29 left. A Curtis Millage three point play gave his team a 57-56 lead with 1:23 left, but the senior did however foul out with 47 seconds left. Stanford missed the ensuing free throw, and the after mentioned mental mistake allowed Childress, who led all scorers with 21, to lay the ball in. To make matters worse the Sun Devils, largely due to Millage's absence, looked lost on their last possession of the game and never were able to set up for a high percentage shot en route to their first conference home loss of the season.

The Sun Devils' Ike Diogu recorded his second consecutive double double with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Millage was the only other ASU player in double figures with 15. Tommy Smith's was struggling from the field (4-11) but nearly recorded a double double himself with nine points, and eight boards. He also had four blocks. ASU's old woes from the charity stripe were back, and their 66.6% (16-24) shooting was another "small thing" that was crucial in such a tight game. The 31.6% field goal shooting just made matters worse. Ironic in the loss is ASU's dominance on the boards 40-37 against one of the best rebounding teams in the conference.

While Stanford has proved this season that it's one of the best teams in the conference this year, this was another bitter and disappointing loss for the Sun Devils. A sweep this week would demonstrate to the Pac-10 that they do have some consistency to along with their talent. At the midway point of conference play, the maroon and gold are still trying to figure out if their team can truly turn the corner this year. With a Pac-10 record of 5-4 the questions surrounding this team outnumber the answers….

Sparky's Sundries Another good crowd on hand today numbering 9800. Those in attendance, and especially the student section were very involved and very loud at times…The refs should change clothes quickly, get in their car, and get the h*ll out of town before they are lynched. The next time the Devils get the home officiating other Pac-10 teams enjoy, will be the first time. When the students yelled at Stanford's coach Mike Montgomery on his way off the floor, telling him that the refs gave him the game, he just smiled and looked back at them. Even he knew…"The F-Bomb guy," as he is sometimes called in the student section, was beat by a girl in the halftime shootout. Don't tell anyone that Jill played college ball before going to ASU for her MBA… ASU is in the process of forming an officially sanctioned student hoops fan group. They will get preferred seating, free T-shirts, and will interact with the coaches and team, as well as other benefits. Kudos to the school for rewarding the die-hard fans who show up at every game.

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