Sun Devils Beat Beavers By 20

Jan 3, 2003

By Brian Gomez, TheSunDevils.com

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- After only one conference game, the signs of progressare obvious for the Arizona State men's basketball program.

Two years ago, the Sun Devils started the Pac-10 season with seven straight losses en route to a 13-16 record. Last year, they dropped back-to-back road games to the Oregon schools, but managed to finish the season .500 and later earned a National Invitation Tournament berth.

This year, however, the Sun Devils have shown the patience on offense anddefensive tenacity characteristic of a team determined to get to the NCAA Tournament. ASU took another step toward reaching its ultimate goal Thursday night with a 67-47 victory at Oregon State before 6,123 fans at Gill Coliseum.

'All road wins are good wins because they come tough,' said Sun Devil head coach Rob Evans, whose team won a Pac-10 road opener for the first time in 10 years. 'This is just one game. It's not like we won a national championship or anything.'

Although some people may perceive the win as being nothing out of the ordinary, it was much more than that for ASU, which will surely be tested at 6 p.m. PT Saturday when playing at No. 9 Oregon. The last time the Sun Devils (9-3, 1-0 Pac-10) emerged victorious in their first conference road game was in the 1991-92 season.

Former ASU head coach Bill Frieder's team advanced to the second round of the NIT, where it was knocked off at home by Utah. This year's group of experienced veterans and rising stars seems destined for more than that.

'This is just one step in the right direction toward where we want to be at the end of the season,' said freshman forward Ike Diogu, who scored 14 points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to become only the second Sun Devil freshman to record a double-double since Chad Prewitt accomplished the feat in 1998. 'We want to contend for a Pac-10 championshipand we also want to make the NCAA Tournament. We've got to come up with key road wins like this.'

Diogu, who showed no signs of being slowed by a sprained left foot, made his presence felt by mixing a nice blend of moves in the low post and out around the perimeter. His long jumper with 4:39 remaining in the first half capped a 9-0 run that gave ASU a 30-24 lead.

But Diogu's biggest achievement, perhaps, came on the defensive end. Diogu held Oregon State senior forward Phillip Ricci to only 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field. As a team, the Beavers (7-3, 0-1) made just 33.3 percent of their shots from inside the arc, were 4-for-13 from three-point range and committed 14 turnovers against ASU's 2-2-1 zone press.

'It is hard after awhile when the ball just isn't going into the basket,' Oregon State head coach Jay John said. 'You get demoralized. When you start getting behind, the basket gets small.'

After building a 37-29 lead at intermission, the Sun Devils left little opportunity for the Beavers to claw their way back into things. They out-rebounded Oregon State 42-27, creating several second-chance opportunities.

'We showed patience for 40 minutes,' ASU senior guard Curtis Millage said. 'We didn't let them get into their offense. We pushed them out real wide.'

Millage, who scored a game-high 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting from the field, came up big when his team needed him the most. The Beavers, who trailed by as many as 14 points early in the second half, cut the deficit to 10 with 12:57 left.

That's when Millage took a pre-designed backdoor pass from senior forward Shawn Redhage after a timeout for an easy lay-up. The Sun Devils pushed the lead to 15 and later pulled away after tallying six unanswered points and holding the Beavers scoreless for nearly four minutes.

'We're definitely going to feed off Curtis,' said ASU sophomore point guard Jason Braxton, who didn't turn the ball over in 25 minutes while marking nine points, two assists and one steal. 'When he's in a groove, he's the most energetic player on our team. He plays hard defense and he'll cut you up offensively.'

GAME NOTES: Oregon State holds a 33-26 lead in the all-time series...ASU improved to 8-0 when leading at halftime...the Sun Devils outscored the Beavers 20-8 in the paint...ASU is averaging 11.8 turnovers and is holding opponents to 39 percent shooting from the field during its current five-game winning streak...Diogu has scored in double figures in all 12 games this year...Millage is 16-for-22 (.727) from the free-throw line in his last fiveoutings...Tommy Smith blocked three shots to give him a team-leading 29 on the season...ASU senior guard Kyle Dodd was 2-for-2 from the field to improve to 21-for-34 (.618) on the season.

UP NEXT: Oregon, which had its school-record-tying 23-game home winningstreak snapped Thursday, is coming off an 81-72 loss to No. 4 Arizona. TheSun Devils have won three of the past four against the Ducks to claim a 30-23lead in the all-time series. They are 4-4 in their last eight trips to Eugene.

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

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