Sun Devils Burn Leopards
By Brian Gomez, thesundevils.com
Five games in nine days, a round-trip flight across the Pacific Ocean andthe pressure that goes along with playing an underdog hungry for an upsetdidn't slow the ASU men's basketball team Saturday afternoon.
Head coach Rob Evans got contributions from everyone in uniform as theSun Devils got off to a blistering start and cruised to an 85-62 victory overLafayette. Even ASU reserve guard Brandon Goldman got a piece of the actionby draining a three-pointer in the game's waning moments that resulted in aloud cheer from the 5,767 in attendance at Wells Fargo Arena.
'They really mustered it up and got after these guys,' Evans said.'Mentally, they fought through some fatigue. I'm tired, so I know they'retired.'
Evans worried that his players might not have been ready when having toplay 72 hours after their last game at the Maui Invitational, where theylaced it up three times in as many days. But the Sun Devils (4-1) lookedfresh when going on a 17-0 run that allowed them to build a 21-4 lead with12:04 remaining in the first half.
ASU freshman forward Ike Diogu, who scored six of his game-high 27 pointsduring the five-minute stretch, capped the scoring spree with a dunk offsenior shooting guard Curtis Millage's miss. He then converted a three-pointplay six minutes later in part of ASU's 13-0 run that stretched its lead to28 points with 5:08 left before the break.
'I just try to react to what the defense is doing,' said Diogu, who made9 of 14 shots from the field and was 9-for-13 from the free throw line. 'Idon't want to make a move too quick because then I start getting out of mygame. I just take whatever the defense gives me.'
The Leopards (0-3) assembled a 10-0 run midway through the second half tocut the deficit to 18 points with 10:22 remaining. However, head coach FranO'Hanlon's team didn't bring as much intensity on the defensive end as ASU,which held Lafayette to 33.3 percent shooting from inside the arc.
'In the second half, we came out a little sluggish,' said Sun Devilsenior forward Tommy Smith, who had four blocks to go along with 12 pointsand five rebounds. 'Since we've been here, we're a team with no excuses andwe're going to stick with that. No matter what the reason is, we weren't asconcentrated in the second half as we were in the first half.'
Millage, who took to the bench with 17:31 to go after picking up hisfourth foul, scored only 10 points in 24 minutes in his first game at NedWulk Court since returning from a lengthy dilemma concerning his academiceligibility. However, ASU senior forward Donnell Knight picked up the slackwith seven points and eight rebounds, five of which came on the offensive end.
'He provided some of the energy we needed in the second half,' Evanssaid. 'He's getting better. I was really proud of his effort.'
Lafayette was led by junior guard Winston Davis, who scored a team-high14 points. Senior guard Andrew Pleick added 12 for the Leopards.Game notes
GAME NOTES: The Sun Devils improved to 4-1 for just the third time in the past 10years ... Diogu's 27 points, which were the most by a Sun Devil freshman sinceMario Bennett scored a school-record 35 against UA on Feb. 20, 1992, were thefourth-most by a freshman in school history ... ASU junior forward Jamal Hillturned the ball over for only the second time in the last five games ... SunDevil sophomore guard Jason Braxton tallied three assists and two steals toadd to his team-leading total in each statistical category.
UP NEXT: ASU is scheduled to return to action at 7 p.m. Wednesday when hostingBrigham Young at Wells Fargo Arena. The Cougars, who edged the Sun Devils82-70 last year in Provo, Utah, captured the University of the Virgin IslandsParadise Jam title last week with victories over Toledo, Kansas State and St.Bonaventure.
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