Evans Prepared For ‘Dog Fight' Against USC

One could call USC a thorn in ASU's side. The Trojans have won the last five basketball games against the Devils, and are winners in nine out of last ten matches. However, Coach Rob Evans chooses other adjectives to describe his opponent on Thursday.

"They all have been thorns in my side." Says the fifth year coach, "They have been a very good team the last three or four years. We want to come out like we do against everyone else. We want to play hard, rebound, not give up easy baskets, and give us a chance to win the game. We have to get shot attempts, and the only way to do that is to take care of the basketball. USC is playing well, they're athletic, and a lot of their young players are starting to gain experience…it will be a dog fight."

ASU concluded a successful road trip to the Washington schools. The Sun Devils were able to sweep both teams, and naturally Evans was pleased with the results. "We played very well against Washington State, especially in the second half where we held them to 18 points. We were able to rest a few people, which is really good. In the Washington game I thought we played well in the first half, but then Tommy and Ike got into foul trouble. When that happened, we struggled offensively. But we were able to go down to the half with a lead. On the road, you just want to keep yourself in a position to win the ball game against a very good ball team, and Washington is a good team. That was a good win for us."

The win against the Huskies was also impressive due to the fact that ASU star Ike Diogu, had a very quiet night scoring only 11 points. Evans talks about the freshman's performance. "Ike played very well, but just didn't get enough shot attempts. The reason is that we didn't get him the basketball. He was open in the middle when they played zone, and we've been working on that and making sure we correct the situation. He has to get more touches. We're doing more things to make sure that he does." One player that had a very timely career game was Shawn Redhage who scored 29 points. For Evans, it's another affirmation on how invaluable reserves can be for the team. "We were able to get Shawn in the basketball game, and he did a tremendous job picking up the slack for Tommy and Ike offensively. Curtis was banged up, and wasn't able to do the things he can…that's why you have seniors. That's why you have a bench, and that's why we played the bench early in the season – so when we get into a situation like this, the bench can come through for us."

Another player, who turned in a fine performance this past weekend, is junior Jamal Hill. The ASU coach doesn't believe there's one specific reason why Hill has been able to be more of a factor as of late. "It's just maturity. Anytime you have a junior college player, it just takes them time to understand everything – shot selection, where the shot should come from…I think Jamal is starting to understand some of those things. He can be a huge factor for us down the stretch."

There are only seven games left in the Pac-10 season. One can argue that ASU is reaching its pinnacle at the right time, since they've won three of the last four. Does Rob Evans share that notion? "I don't believe in peaks and valleys, just in getting better. You want to be getting better each and every game as the season goes on. That's what we try to do everyday, and every game. You're not gonna play well every night, but you want to keep improving. I think this ball club has kept on improving." Another thing that the ASU coach firmly believes in is not looking too far ahead. When a reporter asked him if he's thinking about the big dance, Evans quipped: "I don't talk about tournament. I never talk about the tournament. All I'm talking about is the fact that we're playing USC. If we can come out and play well against USC, everything will take care of itself. Our next hurdle is USC. If we start looking at the finish line, someone will hit the hurdle. And I don't want to be the one that hits the hurdle. I just want to get over that next hurdle. After USC we'll look at the next hurdle. When we get over the last hurdle, then we'll look at the string (of the finish line)…" And judging by recent USC has been a steep hurdle for ASU. Leaping over it could help the Devils reach uncharted heights this season.

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