Sun Devils Sink Utes In OT, 83-79
By Brian Gomez, thesundevils.com
LAHAINA, Hawaii -- The Sun Devils missed 25 free throws Wednesday at the Lahaina CivicCenter, but got an emotional lift with the return of senior shooting guardCurtis Millage and escaped with an 83-79 overtime victory against Utah tocapture fifth place in the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
'Everybody that was here can see what Curtis Millage means to our team,'said ASU head coach Rob Evans, whose team led by as many as nine points inthe second half, but made only one field goal in the final six minutes ofregulation. 'He's the leader of this team and he's their security blanket.He's everything.'
Millage, who arrived in town at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, not only scored agame-high 26 points, but also brought a newfound sense of enthusiasm thatwasn't there Monday when the Sun Devils (3-1) sustained a 17-point loss to15th-ranked Kentucky. However, Millage's stellar outing was overshadowedlargely by his struggles at the free throw line.
'I've just had a lot on my mind for the past two weeks with the situationthat was going on,' said Millage, who missed 12 of 20 shots from the stripe,including four straight with less than two minutes remaining in regulation asthe Utes erased an eight-point deficit.
Utah (2-2) grabbed a 71-69 lead with 22 seconds left when junior swingmanNick Jacobson drained his second consecutive three-pointer from the wing.Millage missed a driving lay-up with nine seconds to go, but sophomore pointguard Jason Braxton was there for a put back that allowed ASU to draw even.Utah senior forward Britton Johnsen misfired on an off-balanced jumper astime expired.
'Jason is a winner, so he's going to do whatever it takes,' Evans said.'We've been trying to get him to rebound the basketball. That's a big play.'
Freshman forward Ike Diogu drained four free throws and Millage knockeddown a three-pointer to help give the Sun Devils another eight-point leadwith 1:35 remaining in overtime. But Utah again cut into the deficit as ASUfaltered at the charity stripe.
The Utes got back-to-back treys from Jacobson and Johnsen and trailed byjust two points with 12 seconds left after freshman swingman Richard Chaneystole the ball from senior forward Shawn Redhage at mid-court and threw downan uncontested dunk. They had a chance to tie things up with four secondsremaining after ASU junior guard Kenny Crandall missed the second of two freethrows, but Jacobson's shot from the corner was long.
'We got in this tournament because we wanted to get the competition thatwas here and win basketball games,' Evans said. 'There are going to be a lotof people walking out of here 1-2, and we're one of the teams that's comingout of here 2-1.'
Even though the Sun Devils got 22 points from Diogu and 11 apiece out ofBraxton and junior forward Jamal Hill, Evans was more impressed by what histeam accomplished on defense. Utah shot only 41.8 percent from the field andturned the ball over 15 times.
'This is the best defensive effort I've had from my team since I've beenat Arizona State,' Evans said. 'All my teams have been known for defense, butthis is a team I've really enjoyed coaching because of their defensiveintensity.'
GAME NOTES: Diogu scored in double figures for the fourth consecutive game ... ASU wonthe battle on the boards, 48-35 ... The Sun Devils were 3-for-11 from beyondthe arc ... ASU won for the first time in 14 games when trailing or tied athalftime ... The Sun Devils, who were 24-for-54 from the field, won for onlythe third time in the past 20 outings when they didn't shoot 50 percent fromthe field ... ASU improved to 7-5 all-time in the Maui Invitational.