Sun Devils Top Cougars 96-55 to move to 3-1 in Pac-10

Jan 11, 2003

By Brian Gomez, TheSunDevils.com

Most fans that came to Wells Fargo Arena Saturday night looking for a close men's basketball game went home disappointed.

This one got so out of hand that the student section started chants for reserve guard Brandon Goldman -- in the first half. After entering the game when it was already well out of reach, Goldman scored his team's final seven points to put an exclamation point on Arizona State's 96-55 rout of Washington State before a crowd of 7,315 at Ned Wulk Court.

'Often times when you get a little bit of a lead, you have a tendency to sometimes lose focus, but our experience really showed,' said Sun Devil head coach Rob Evans, whose team's 41-point win was his third-largest in his five years at the helm. 'We've been through all of this before in building this program where we've had leads, lose focus and lose ball games or make it a tough ball game, but they stayed focused. It's a sign of maturity.'

The lopsided win put ASU (11-4, 3-1 Pac-10) two games above .500 to start conference play for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. The Sun Devils hope the momentum carries over to next week when they embark on their second Pac-10 road trip of the season with games at the Los Angeles schools.

'Our team is even-keeled right now,' said ASU senior forward Donnell Knight, who had 13 points and a game-high eight rebounds in 24 minutes. 'We're where we want to be. We're not too high and we're not too low, we're just right.'

With Washington State depleted because of injuries -- junior guard Marcus Moore was playing at only 50 percent with bone chips in his right ankle and senior forward Milton Riley was sidelined with a fractured back and a bruised lung -- Evans took full advantage of an opportunity to use all 13 players on his active roster. They saw plenty of time down the stretch after ASU's starters scorched the Cougars (5-8, 0-4) in the first half.

Freshman forward Ike Diogu, who had single-handedly outscored Washington State nine minutes into the game, tallied four of his game-high 17 points during the first five minutes as the Sun Devils wasted little time grabbing a 12-0 lead. Junior swingman Jamal Hill then buried a pair of jumpers as ASU went on a 9-0 run to stretch the margin to 18 points.

'Our coaches harp on us in practice all the time about just being patient and not putting ourselves in position to turn the ball over by throwing the ball across your body or by forcing it,' said Sun Devil sophomore point guard Jason Braxton, who recorded nine points and five assists and didn't turn the ball over in 21 minutes. 'We try to get it into the post so much. Sometimes that's where a lot of our turnovers come from. We still have to get better at that, but we're doing a good job of taking care of the ball.'

Senior forward Tommy Smith scored four points on back-to-back driving lay-ups midway through the first half and buried a pair of free throws in part of a 13-0 run that put the Sun Devils ahead 44-13 with 2:30 left before the break. ASU led 48-20 at intermission.

The Sun Devils picked up right where they left off after halftime with an 18-5 run that gave them a 66-25 advantage. Hill converted a four-point play during the scoring spree by knocking down a shot from beyond the arc and sinking a free throw after he was fouled.

'We were very patient with the ball and we were trying to get the best open looks,' said Hill, who finished with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field, including a 3-for-4 effort from three-point range. 'We just passed it around the perimeter until we could get the best available shot.'

ASU displayed great ball movement with 22 assists on its 34 field goals. The Sun Devils shot 63 percent (34-for-54) from inside the arc, the third-best mark in Evans' 11-year coaching career.

'When you shoot the ball and it goes in, you are going to have a high percentage,' said Washington State head coach Paul Graham, whose team committed 16 turnovers and shot 30.2 percent (19-for-63) from the field, the lowest mark by any Sun Devil opponent this season. 'You have good days and bad days. I'm not going to commit suicide over this one.'

UP NEXT: ASU will continue Pac-10 play at 7:30 p.m. PT Thursday against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles. The Bruins (4-7, 2-1) have dropped two consecutive games for the third time this season with losses to Southern California and St. Johns.

GAME NOTES: The Sun Devils hold a 29-23 lead in the all-time series against the Cougars ... They have won five of their past six home games versus Washington State ... ASU is shooting 51.3 percent (194-for-378) from the field and 70.4 percent (124-for-176) at the free-throw line in its past eight games...The Sun Devils are averaging just 11.9 turnovers in their past eight games ... Smith had two blocks and two assists Saturday to give him 39 blocks (2.6 per game) on the season and 30 assists in his last seven games ... Diogu scored in double figures for the 15th consecutive game.

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

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