Sun Devils Slip Past Bruins, 75-64

Jan 17, 2003

By Brian Gomez, TheSunDevils.com

LOS ANGELES -- The magnitude of Thursday night's game cannot be seen by looking at the box score, nor can it be uncovered by listening to the words of the Arizona State men's basketball team's coaches and players.

To comprehend the scope of this one, you have to delve deep into the Sun Devil record books. Even then, the numbers are hard to swallow.

Buoyed by a gritty defensive performance in the first half and an equally impressive outing from the field after the break, ASU celebrated a 75-64 victory over UCLA before a sparse crowd of 7,710 at Pauley Pavilion. It marked the first time the Sun Devils had won back-to-back games in Westwood and it was just their fifth triumph in school history at UCLA.

ASU's previous four wins at Pauley Pavilion, all but one of which came prior to the 1987-88 season, were by a combined eight points. The Sun Devils (12-4, 4-1 Pac-10) won by 11 points Thursday on a night when they not only made history, but also further solidified themselves as a conference contender.

'We're trying to make sure we take care of business at home and go on the road and win. If you do that, you can put yourself in position to do something special,' said ASU head coach Rob Evans, whose team shot 72.2 percent (13-of-18) from inside the arc in the second half en route to a 59.6-percent (28-for-47) effort for the game. 'We don't get too excited aboutbeating UCLA any more than we do about beating Washington State. If you get high and low, you're going to be on a roller coaster all the time.'

After watching a 21-point lead nearly go by the wayside, the Sun Devils withstood a late push by the Bruins, who stayed close thanks to a recently-installed full-court press that helped cause 15 second-half turnovers. Senior forward Jason Kapono's lay-in on a pass from sophomoreswingman Dijon Thompson capped a 20-8 run that brought UCLA (4-8, 2-2) within six points with 2:27 remaining.

But ASU got big contributions from freshman forward Ike Diogu and senior shooting guard Curtis Millage in the game's waning moments, causing the seats at Pauley Pavilion to empty faster than some of the drivers whizzing down the nearby 405 Freeway toward Santa Monica. Diogu recorded two of his 16 points on a two-handed dunk on an outlet pass from senior forward Tommy Smith.

Millage then sank three consecutive free throws after being fouled by Thompson on an attempt from beyond the arc.

'The seniors on this team and the coaches always harp about how as long as we stay together and be focused, good things will happen,' said Millage, who finished with a game-high 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field.

The Sun Devils, who shot 52.9 percent (18-for-34) from the charity stripe, had enough of a cushion down the stretch, largely because of the way they played in the first half. Millage knocked down three jumpers in part of ASU's 16-6 run out of the gates.

Smith, who tallied a season-high-tying 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in 39 minutes, started heating up with several powerful drives to the basket and a lay-up that gave the Sun Devils a 21-10 lead with 9:44 left before the break.

'We have a couple true post men, but the rest of us like to attack the basket,' Smith said. 'We've been working on attacking the basket in control. We've been playing with poise and smarts lately.'

ASU sophomore point guard Jason Braxton scored seven of his nine points in the final six minutes of the first half. He made a lay-up in transition on a pass from Smith, before draining a three-pointer from the top of the key and kissing a runner off the glass with six seconds left that gave his team a 40-22 advantage at intermission.

The Sun Devils held the Bruins to only eight field goals in the first half, four of which came from sophomore forward Josiah Johnson, who entered the game off the bench along with four other reserves with 14:55 remaining. UCLA failed to establish any rhythm during a first half in which junior center T.J. Cummings played only three minutes after picking up his thirdfoul with 17:32 to go.

'All year, we've been searching for some combination of players that will give us a spark,' UCLA head coach Steve Lavin said. 'In the first half, we had some good combinations out there.'

Cummings finished with 10 points and Kapono had a t-high 17, but he committed three turnovers and was 3-for-10 from the field, including an 0-for-3 effort from beyond the arc. The Bruins turned the ball over 19 times as a team and shot 44 percent (22-for-50) from the field.

GAME NOTES: UCLA holds a 47-12 lead in the all-time series...ASU won consecutive games against the Bruins for the first time since claiming three in a row from 1979-1981...The Sun Devils, who improved to 4-1 in Pac-10 play for the first time since the 1987-88 season, are shooting 52.7 percent (257-for-488) from the field during their last nine games and are holdingopponents to 40 percent (190-for-475)...Diogu needs just six more free-throw attempts to match the Sun Devil freshman record of 140 set by Mario Bennett from 1991-92...Braxton turned the ball over three times Thursday after coughing it up only once in his previous four games...Smith has notched 36 assists in his past eight outings...ASU senior guard Kyle Dodd is 15-for-21 (71.4 percent) from the field in the last nine games.

INJURY UPDATE: Sun Devil junior swingman Justin Allen, who missed the last two games with a sprained right ankle, was dressed Thursday but did not play. ASU senior guard Brandon Goldman is expected to be sidelined for about a month after injuring his wrist in practice earlier this week.

UP NEXT: The Sun Devils will attempt to make more history at 8 p.m. PT Saturday when playing at Southern California. They have swept the Los Angelesschools on the road just twice (1979-80 and 1986-87) in 24 Pac-10 seasons...The Trojans (6-6, 2-2) are coming off an 81-72 loss to No. 2-ranked Arizona.

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

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