Sun Devils Clipped By BYU, 64-60
By Brian Gomez, thesundevils.com
The Sun Devil men's basketball team learned another important lessonWednesday night, but it wasn't greeted with open arms.
ASU discovered that energized play in the second half can't negate a slowstart, poor free throw shooting and a barrage of missed shots from theirbiggest offensive threats. The Sun Devils walked out of Wells Fargo Arenawith the hope of improvement in the long run, but still felt the sting aftera 64-60 loss to Brigham Young.
'I'm tired of these learning experiences,' said ASU senior forward TommySmith, who finished with 13 points on 5-for-15 shooting from the field, butturned the ball over six times. 'I'm ready to start winning these games we'resupposed to win.'
The Sun Devils (4-2) shot 41.3 percent from inside the arc, but most oftheir problems again came at the charity stripe. They made only 5 of 15attempts from the free throw line to drop to 59.3 percent on the season.
'If you're going to win close ball games like this against good teams,you've got to do the small things, and one of the small things is making freethrows,' ASU head coach Rob Evans said. 'I don't understand why you can'tshoot free throws. We shoot tons of free throws every kind of way you canshoot them.'
Despite trailing by as many as 12 points after the break, the Sun Devilscrawled to within shouting distance for a majority of the second half. Smithknocked down a short jumper and converted a driving lay-up to put a cap on a7-0 run that cut the deficit to two points with 9:53 remaining.
However, the Cougars (5-0) quickly pushed the lead up to five points lessthan two minutes later when junior center Rafael Araujo laid in a bucketbefore sophomore forward John Allen buried an uncontested three-pointer. ASUdrew even with 2:08 left after Smith stole the ball from sophomore forwardJared Jensen and put back his own miss on the other end.
Brigham Young answered on the ensuing possession with senior swingmanTravis Hansen's lay-in over senior guard Curtis Millage. After Araujo missedthe second of two free throws, the Sun Devils had a chance to tie the gamewith less than 30 seconds left, but Millage's three-pointer came up short.
'Next time, it will go down,' said Millage, who was 1-for-6 from beyondthe arc and made 5 of 15 shots from the field for 11 points. 'I got a prettygood look. I just needed a little bit more arch.'
Jensen gave ASU fits all night long, especially early in the first halfwhen he scored 10 of his 12 points. Sun Devil freshman forward Ike Diogu, whohad 15 points and eight rebounds, could handle the physical play brought onby the Cougars, but was 7-for-15 from the field with three turnovers.
'I was getting out-competed by their big men and I knew I could playbetter than that,' Diogu said. 'I just had to go out there and make myactions speak louder than my words.'
One of the few positives for the Sun Devils was the play of juniorforward Jamal Hill, who found his spots on the floor and drained 5 of 7 shotsfor 12 points. Hill scored five points on one trip up court early in thesecond half to help put ASU in position to make a run down the stretch.
'Coach Evans tells me when I get in to just play with a lot of energy,'Hill said. 'My main thing when I come in is to try to play defense and shutguys down, but if my shot is there, I'm going to take it.'
Sun Devil senior forward Chris Osborne also made some contributions whileplaying six minutes a day after aggravating a sprained ankle during practice.Osborne's putback on Millage's missed three-pointer brought the Sun Devils towithin three points with 6:49 remaining.
'He was questionable, so we didn't know whether he could play, but we hadto have him because of his size and his physical presence,' Evans said. 'Heplayed tough, that's what it called for.'
GAME NOTES: There were six ties and four lead changes ... The 7,105 in attendance wasASU's largest home crowd of the season ... The Sun Devils were out-reboundedfor the second straight year by Brigham Young, losing the battle on theboards, 37-32 ... ASU shot 27.3 percent from three-point range ... Sun Devilsophomore point guard Jason Braxton scored only one point in 24 minutes.
UP NEXT: ASU is scheduled to return to action at 7 p.m. Saturday when traveling toUtah. The meeting will mark the second between the schools in the past 11days, as the Sun Devils bested the Utes 83-79 on Nov. 27 to capture fifthplace at the Maui Invitational.
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