ASU Falls to Arizona 92-72

For good or for bad, sometimes scouting reports play out to perfection. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, their pre-game concerns over the Wildcats materialized tonight. Figuring out Arizona's zone defense, while halting their explosive transition game, were vital for ASU's chances to win this game. The Devils inability to do both resulted in a 92-72 defeat at the hands of the Cats.

ASU came out slow out of the gates and quickly trailed 10-2 at the 17:00 minute mark. The home team, behind Curtis Milage and Jamal Hill was able to regroup and outscore the visitors 15-9 to cut down the deficit to 19-17 with 11:57 left in the first half. A Tommy Smith dunk put the Devils ahead 28-27 at the 7:30 mark. Smith and Millage kept matters close for ASU, and with 2:45 left in the opening period the game was all tied at 39-39. This is where matters took a turn for the worse for Rob Evans' team. Arizona went on one of their notorious runs, and outscored ASU 12-4 to hold a 51-43 lead at halftime. In the second half, things went from bad to worse. Ike Diogu scored his team's first field goal at the 14:27 mark following an Arizona 12-1 run. At that point it was all academic. The Sun Devils were never able to bring down their deficit to single digits, while the Wildcats were able to sustain and even slightly increased their lead until the final buzzer sounded.

Tommy Smith led four teammates in double figures scoring 18 points. Ike Diogu notched another double double with 15 points and 10 boards, but was hardly the dominating presence he has been all season. Curtis Millage chipped in with 14, while Jamal Hill came off the bench to add 12 points. Luke Walton and Channing Frye scored 23 points each for the visitors, and Rick Anderson added 19 points and grabbed a game high 12 rebounds. Arizona was red hot from the floor shooting 57.4%, while limiting ASU to only 39.1%. Another dominating stat was the battle of the boards, which was won decisively by the Cats 43-32.

Following the game, ASU's head coach Rob Evans gave full credit to Arizona on their performance tonight. "Arizona is playing very well now. " he said, "They're clicking on all cylinders. They whopped us on the glass, and we didn't make enough shots against their zone…you have to do a lot of things well to beat a team like this." Evans also mentioned his team's impatience when taking too many shots behind the arc, instead of penetrating to the paint more. "They're good going on runs. Suddenly it was an eight-point lead (at halftime), and it's easier to play when you're ahead instead of playing catch-up." Looking ahead to the upcoming bay area road trip Evans said: "Every game in this league is tough, and every time you go on the road it's difficult. I like this basketball team. We'll continue to work and win. Our goals are still ahead of us."

While no Sun Devil fan will deny that this was a bitter loss, the truth of the matter is that it didn't change ASU's chances in achieving their ultimate goal of reaching the NCAA tournament. Two wins out of the remaining four regular season games, and tonight's defeat becomes a trivial one. Granted, with each loss from here out the margin of error to be invited to the big dance shrinks. Nevertheless, Evans' squad has rebounded from adversity before and there's no reason to think that they can't do so again. A win against Stanford on Thursday, can make this loss a little bit easier to take…

Sparky's Sundries: The 14,421 in attendance marked the fourth largest crowd in the University Activity Center/Wells Fargo Arena history. Suffice to say that 30% or so of those fans were UA ones… Evans paid warm compliments to the students in attendance: "It was great to see the student section tonight. They stayed until the final horn blew." It's been a while since students were seen seating all the way up in the rafters…Senator John McCain was one of the few and lucky celebrities to score a ticket tonight…many current and ex-football players were in the stands. Among them were: Tim Fa'aita, Drew Hodgdon, Shane Jones, R.J. Oliver, Mason Unck and Kurt Wallin…

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