Devils Complete Sweep of Oregon Schools

Emotions ran high this afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena. Today's game marked the last time six Sun Devil seniors, four of them starters, would play on ASU's campus. And perhaps that would explain the sluggish play through out the game that threatened to send off these four players on a losing note. However, when it was all said and done, it was those four seniors (and one amazing freshman) that led ASU to a 74-64 victory, which further erased any apprehension of not being invited to the big dance.

ASU's sloppy play in the first several minutes allowed Oregon State, who was fighting for an NIT berth, to jump to a 17-14 lead at the 14:00 mark. However Curtis Millage's pair of long bombs coupled with solid play by Tommy Smith and Shawn Redhage saw ASU go on a 17-9 run to jump to a 31-26 with 7:30 left in the half. Nevertheless, the Devils couldn't pull away and both teams virtually traded baskets for the rest of the period, which ended 45-38 in favor of the home team.

Ike Diogu scored six points in the first few minutes of the second half to open a double-digit margin of 57-46 at the 15:00 mark. From that point on, the Sun Devils registered only two points in the next eight and half minutes, and that scoring drought resulted in a Beavers 12-2 run that cut down the lead to 59-58 with seven minutes left in the contest. But that that's as close as Oregon State would come to winning today. The ASU starters, who accounted for all the team's points this afternoon, pulled away for good and helped end the 2002-03 regular season on a wining note to the tune of a 74-64 victory in front of 9,759 in attendance.

The same four players that were in double figures on Thursday repeated their feat against the Beavers. Ike Diogu led all scorers with 18 points. Tommy Smith had a second consecutive double double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Milage also scored 17 points and had two steals. Shawn Redhage barely missed a double double of his own with 16 points and nine rebounds. Kyle Dodd had a solid all around game with eight assists (seven in the first half) six points, and six rebounds. ASU's 61.5% shooting in the first half, cooled down a bit in the second half and the Devils were 51.8% for the game. Rob Evans' team also had a fine night from three-point land (4-10) and the free throw line (70.6%). The most telling stat tonight was the rebound margin, where ASU dominated 39-21. One other noteworthy stat for ASU were the mere three turnovers it committed in the second half.

Coach Evans acknowledged the difficulty of playing well on senior day. "It's difficult to stay focused all the time. I was prepared for it, and seniors stepped up and played like seniors. The boys showed a lot of experience and confidence grinding this game out." Another aspect of pressure was the desire to secure post-season play. "There was tremendous pressure because of past seasons where we didn't make in to the NCAA tournament. This team hasn't been there in a long time." While the Sun Devil coach admitted that his team's interior defense isn't up to par, he was very pleased with the battle of the boards. "We out-rebounded Oregon State by 18 rebounds, and whenever you do that, it shows toughness." The 19 wins so far this season equals Evans' largest number of single season victories in his ASU tenure. "The 19 wins were really a grind. The Pac-10 schedule is though enough, and we played a very tough out of conference schedule against teams like Kentucky, Utah. Purdue, and BYU. But we learned how to win games…I'm pleased with the way we played, the effort and the leadership from our seniors." He thought that if Ike Diogu wasn't a unanimous selection for Pac-10 freshman of the year "They should check the ballots." But today was really about the seniors. Evans recalled the time he recruited them four or so years back. "We signed these guys a week after our problems (namely the gambling scandal). They committed to us then, and they'll be committed to ASU for a long time…when I recruited them I had a game plan. I was honest with them. I told them that if they gave themselves to the coaches, they'll be playing the post season and turn this program around. This has been a great journey because of the seniors."

And this journey happily enough doesn't end for at least a couple of weeks. Up next for ASU is a rematch of Thursday's game against Oregon, as part of the first round play in the Pac-10 tourney. The ASU players fully believe they can win this tournament, as they were proclaiming, "We're packing for three days." And a few days later they'll be packing for a destinations currently unknown when they're invited to the NCAA post-season tournament. It took five years for Rob Evans and his staff to turn around the Mississippi program, and just like clock work in his fifth year in Tempe sweet history is repeating itself.

Sparky's Sundries Prior to tip-off the team honored its six seniors who played their last regular season game at home. A highlight video preceded the introduction of each and every player…another ceremony took place at halftime - a presentation of all the post-season awards that were handed down to Terrell Suggs. Those awards are the Rotary Lombardi, the Ted Hendricks award, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Pac-10's Morris Trophy. The defensive end was on hand to thank his coaches and especially the fans. Head football coach Dirk Koetter presented Suggs the Hendricks award ring for the first time…Devils Digest is swelling with pride over the fact that the Bronko Nagurski Trophy was carried on and off the floor by none other than our own Big E SunDvl…Last year's senior Chad Prewitt was enjoying the game in the stands along with ex-Sun Devil football player Mason Unck…Phil Root just cannot catch a break these days. Prior to the game Oregon State's Floyd North III threw a ball that nearly hit him. North proceeded to have a measly two points in only nine minutes of play…The best sign of the day was a take off on the injury law firm "Goldman and Osbourne" completed with the company's Eagle emblem. This was in honor of ASU players Chris Osborne and Brandon Goldman.

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