Sun Devils Blow Past Boilermakers

Dec 22, 2002

By Brian Gomez, TheSunDevils.com

LAS VEGAS -- Different circumstances yielded different results Saturdaynight for the Arizona State men's basketball team.

The last time the Sun Devils played at the Thomas & Mack Center, theywere still feeling the sting from three consecutive losses to close out theregular season and a lopsided defeat against arch-rival Arizona in theopening round of the Pac-10 Tournament. The result was a season-ending lossto Nevada-Las Vegas in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.

This time, however, ASU was facing a different opponent after a spiritedweek of practice and a much-needed 11-day break for final exams. Buoyed by a14-point, 15-minute effort from senior forward Shawn Redhage and solid performances froma host of others, the Sun Devils celebrated a 70-53 victory over Purdue inthe Las Vegas Showdown.

'It might have looked easy, but it wasn't,' said ASU head coach RobEvans, whose team recorded the school's first win in Las Vegas in four tries.'They showed a lot more toughness on loose balls, rebounds and defensively.'

After relinquishing an average of 71 points in a pair of losses two weeksago to Brigham Young and Utah, the Sun Devils (6-3) shored up their problemson the defensive end by holding Purdue to 39.5 percent shooting from thefield. The Boilermakers (5-3) were 3-for-14 from three-point range and madeonly 16 of 28 attempts from the free-throw line.

Meanwhile, ASU shone brighter than the lights gleaming along the Stripjust a few miles from the UNLV campus. The Sun Devils were 54.3 percent frominside the arc, including a sizzling 63.2 percent in the first half when theyamassed a 12-point lead.

Redhage scored eight of his season-high 14 points before the break tohelp ASU put some distance between itself and Purdue, which lost for thesecond time in the past seven days. Midway through the first half, Redhageknocked down a jumper and made four consecutive free throws after beingfouled on a pair of drives to the basket.

With Sun Devil freshman forward Ike Diogu limited because of foultrouble, Redhage took full advantage of new-found openings in and around thelane. His 14 points mark the most he has scored since his sophomore year.

'I got some confidence early and it just carried me through the game,'Redhage said. 'We were playing a lot of open post, so there were a lot ofdriving angles.'

Senior forward Tommy Smith scored six of his season-high 15 points in thefinal 5:30 of the first half to give the Sun Devils a 37-28 lead atintermission. Redhage again stole the spotlight in the second half by scoringsix straight points that stretched the margin to 15 points with 13:31remaining.

'Shawn and I have similar games, but he has a better shot, of course,'Smith said. 'He just took what the defense gave him. If it was there, he shotit.'

Purdue trimmed the deficit to 12 points with 5:51 left, but Diogu quicklyput things out of reach by scoring seven unanswered points in just over aminute. Diogu converted a three-point play, before muscling his way throughthe post for a bucket and tossing in a lay-up.

'This whole year, we really haven't been playing well in the secondhalf,' said Diogu, who finished with a team-high 18 points and a season-highnine rebounds on 7-of-9 shooting from the field. 'We challenged ourselves tocome out and play well in the second half and smack them in the mouth. That'sexactly what we did.'

GAME NOTES: ASU improved to 2-3 all-time against Purdue...the Sun Devilsturned the ball over nine times in the first half, but committed only sixmiscues after the break...ASU scored 18 points off Purdue's 18 turnovers...the Sun Devils held a 35-26 advantage on the boards, resulting in 13 second-chance points...ASU was 17-for-26 from the free-throw line.

MORE NOTES: Diogu scored in double figures for the ninth straight game...Sun Devil junior swingman Jamal Hill threw the ball away twice aftercommitting only four turnovers in the first eight games...ASU sophomore pointguard Jason Braxton tallied four assists and two steals to add to his teamlead in each statistical category...Smith blocked two shots to give him ateam-high 21 on the season.

UP NEXT: The Sun Devils are scheduled to return to action Friday nightwhen hosting the 36th annual azcentral.com Hoops Classic at Wells FargoArena. ASU will face Bucknell at 7:30 p.m. following the 5 p.m. opener, whichpits UC Santa Barbara against Nebraska.

Reach the reporter at brian.gomez@asu.edu.

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