Stanford Slips Past Arizona St.

Feb 1, 2003

By Brian Gomez, TheSunDevils.com

Call it a game of missed opportunities. Call it whatever you want, but the outcome was still the same Saturday afternoon for the Sun Devil men's basketball team at Wells Fargo Arena.

Sparked by senior shooting guard Curtis Millage's clutch play, Arizona State was less than two minutes away from capturing a sweep of the Bay area schools. But Millage fouled out on a questionable call by the officials, the Sun Devils failed to box out on a missed free throw and they came up empty handed on a pair of decent looks at the basket in the game's waning moments.

The end result was a 58-57 loss to Stanford that drops ASU into fifth place in the Pac-10.

'It was just one of those nights where we didn't shoot it as good as we needed to shoot it to win the game,' said Sun Devil head coach Rob Evans, whose team shot a season-low 31.6 percent (18-for-57) from the floor, 33.3 percent (5-for-15) from three-point range and 66.7 percent (16-for-24) at the charity stripe.

ASU (13-7, 5-4 Pac-10) looked as if it had enough offensive firepower to overcome Stanford's stifling zone defense when Millage buried a three-pointer and converted a three-point play on the strength of a reverse layup to give his team a 57-56 lead with 1:23 remaining.

Stanford junior guard Matt Lottich, who finished with 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting from the field, missed a shot from beyond the arc and freshman forward Ike Diogu grabbed the rebound to put the Sun Devils in the driver's seat. But Millage was whistled for his fifth foul on ASU's next possession on what looked like a charge.

After utilizing nearly the entire shot clock, Millage drove down the lane and barreled into Stanford sophomore center Rob Little. Although most of the 9,827 fans in attendance at Ned Wulk Court disagreed, officials ruled that the ball was not in Millage's hands when contact was made, sending Little to the free-throw line.

'We were running motion and we wanted to attack off the dribble,' Evans said. 'I thought Curtis did a pretty good job. He spread them out, but they made a good play on it.'

Despite the call that was not determined to be a player-control foul, the Sun Devils still had a chance to escape with the lead after Little missed the front end of a one-and-one. However, they couldn't get a body on sophomore swingman Josh Childress, who scooped up Little's miss off the front of the rim and laid in two of his game-high 21 points for the go-ahead bucket.

'It was just a little thing, and little things win games,' said ASU senior forward Tommy Smith, who had nine points, eight rebounds, four assists and four blocks in 36 minutes. 'That's what we've been working on, but we didn't execute at the end of the game.'

Senior forward Donnell Knight misfired on an off-balanced jumper and junior guard Kenny Crandall couldn't knock down a three-pointer on the last possession.

Evans said afterward that he wanted to get the ball to Smith in the middle of the lane or to Diogu on a lob pass. Diogu, who marked his second straight double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds, said his team was 'just trying to get an open look from one of our shooters.'

'At the end of the game, I almost didn't call for a zone defense because it might have given them an open look, but Arizona State was reluctant to take a shot,' said Stanford head coach Mike Montgomery, whose team has won 10 straight against ASU, including the last eight in Tempe.

The Sun Devils did a good job of containing senior guard Julius Barnes, who had seven points on 3-of-9 shooting from the field two days after he scored 14 in his team's 82-77 win at Arizona, but they had trouble after the Cardinal (16-5, 7-2) abandoned its man-to-man defense in the game's opening minutes.

'Guys could have moved the ball a little bit more,' Millage said. 'Guys were just holding onto the ball and they had it packed up in there. If we would have moved the ball and shown a little bit more patience, we would have gotten it inside.'

ASU's bench combined for seven points on 1-of-13 shooting from the field. The Sun Devils also turned the ball over nine times during a first half in which they were 8-for-31 (25.8 percent) from the field.

ASU was at its best at the beginning of both halves, opening the game on a 10-2 run and scoring nine unanswered points to start the second half. But the Sun Devils were held to nine points over the final 10:43 of the first half and Stanford had an answer for nearly everything after the break.

'We just let one that we couldn't afford to lose get away from us,' Diogu said.

GAME NOTES: Stanford leads the all-time series 30-24...The Cardinal has won 14 of the past 15 meetings between the schools...ASU, which held a 44-37 advantage on the boards, lost for only the second time this season when it outrebounded its opponent.

UP NEXT: The Sun Devils are scheduled to embark on their third conference road trip next week when they head to the Washington schools. ASU will face Washington State at 7 p.m. PT Thursday, before playing at Washington at 4 p.m. PT Saturday in a game that can be seen on Fox Sports Net.

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

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