Date: Saturday, Feb. 22, 2003
Time: 7 p.m. MST
Location: Wells Fargo Arena (14,088), Tempe, Ariz.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
TV: FSNA (Tom Dillon/Tim Kempton)
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LAST MEETING: The Cats held off a furious second half ASU rally to beat the Sun Devils 71-63 in Tucson.
BACKCOURT: Curtis Millage has had a lot of success against the Cats. In the two regular season games last year, the ASU guard averaged 23 ppg but had only nine points in the Pac-10 Tournament loss. He added 20 this year in Tucson and has been a very tough match-up for the Arizona defenders.
"(Curtis) Millage is having a really good, solid year," Lute Olson said.
Jason Braxton joins Millage in the backcourt. The ASU point guard doesn't score much, and is actually second in the team in assists. Braxton gives the Devils a quick, athletic guard who is not much of an offensive threat and is a terrible three-point shooter.
Kyle Dodd and Kenny Crandall come off the bench to give the Sun Devils good depth. Dodd did not endear himself to Wildcat fans after an altercation with Luke Walton last season. The senior got booed every time he touched the ball in Tucson. Dodd gets less minutes than Braxton or Millage, but he leads the Sun Devils in assists. The Sun Devils are a bad outside shooting team and need to get into the lane to score. Millage is the only guard to average in double figures. Dodd does shoot 50% from behind the arc, but he's only taken 14 three-pointers. Crandall shoots well in spurts and torched the Cats with four threes in the earlier game at McKale.
The Devils are quick and can give the Wildcat guards fits at times. However, to be successful ASU needs to shoot well against the Wildcats, as the Cats will often leave perimeter players open to double team in the post.
Both Salim Stoudamire and Jason Gardner are playing well. Gardner is not only shooting much better but he is running the offense effectively. Stoudamire is the Wildcats best outside shooter and will log some key minutes at the point.
Due to his terrific defense, Chris Rodgers has become the Wildcats' first guard off the bench. Hassan Adams has seen his minutes diminish, but he's still instant offense off the bench.
FRONTCOURT: This is the Sun Devils' strength. Freshman sensation Ike Diogu leads the team in scoring and has been a monster on the boards. He has scored in double figure all 24 games and averages 18.8 ppg. Diogu is strong and very tough to defend in the post.
The Wildcats will do everything they can to limit the number of touches that Diogu gets. The Cats will most likely double team Diogu, employing a zone defense in an attempt to neutralize the freshman sensation.
"If he gets the ball in the post, you're going to have problems because of his big body, his great shooting touch and because he draws fouls," Olson said. "He's very, very good. The only way you're going to contain him is if you limit the number of touches he gets and the number of times he can do something with the ball. That will be our challenge as it is everyone's challenge that plays against him. They're going to go to him, it's almost every time down the court they're going to try to get the ball to him."
Tommy Smith pairs with Diogu to form one of the better inside duos in the conference. Smith leads the team in rebounds, blocks and is second in assists while averaging 10.3 ppg. Foul trouble has plagued Smith his entire career and he has a penchant for picking up silly fouls. He is very aggressive on the glass and is a solid defender. Foul trouble limited him to just 17 minutes before fouling out of the game in Tucson.
"They have a nice balance there because if you try to help from the inside," Olson said. "Tommy Smith is one of the most talented players in the league. He is very dangerous when he puts it on the floor. He does a lot of driving to the basket and is active on the offensive boards. He and Diogu are going to be real keys from the four and five positions."
Donell Knight rounds out the starting frontcourt and, although he has never lived up to the hype he generated as a prep legend in Phoenix, he has been a solid contributor for the Devils.
"They've been using (Donnell) Knight, so they have some size at the three position that is very aggressive on the glass," Olson said.
Off the bench the Devils will go to Jamal Hill for instant scoring. He's the team's fourth leading scorer and splits time with Knight. Shawn Redhage is the first Sun Devil post player off the bench, while Chris Osborne has only seen limited time off the bench.
The Cats are doing an amazing job on the boards, out rebounding their opponents by 10 boards a game. Channing Frye has been dominant of late, getting more and more minutes. Frye has been a beast on the boards and is scoring in bunches. Rick Anderson is always steady in the paint and has actually logged minutes at center when Luke Walton slides over to the four. Those three have taken most of the minutes in the post, keeping Isaiah Fox and Dennis Latimore on the bench. Those two could see extra time due to the physical front line of ASU.
Andre Iguodala will come off the bench to either spell Walton or team with him when the senior moves to the inside. Iguodala has been great on defense and is becoming a better offensive player.
OUTLOOK: Both of these teams are playing great basketball. The Wildcats want to shut down Diogu and force the Devils to shoot form the outside. The Devils want to play physical ball and keep the up-tempo Wildcats off balance. The team that can best impliment their game plan will come away with the win.
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