Diogu Making A Name For Himself And ASU In NCAA Tournament

March 21, 2003

By Brian Gomez, TheSunDevils.com

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Anyone who didn't know who freshman forward Ike Diogu wasbefore Thursday's West Regional opener between Arizona State and Memphiscertainly knows who he is now.

Despite fouling out for only the second time this season, Diogu managed toget his due against Memphis senior forward Chris Massie by scoring agame-high 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field in 32 minutes. He wasa perfect 2-for-2 from three-point range in the second half.

'When I'm open, coach (Rob) Evans has full confidence in me, so he just tellsme to take the shot,' said Diogu, whose efforts lifted the No. 10-seeded SunDevils to an 84-71 victory over No. 7 Memphis before a crowd of 18,462 at theFord Center. 'There are times when I don't take the shot and he kind of getson me. When I'm open, I have his approval to take it.'

After a relatively quiet first half during which he scored only six points in15 minutes, Diogu came alive thanks to a change in his team's game plan. ASUswitched to an open-post offense, which not only enabled Diogu to roam freelyaround the perimeter, but also created many passing lanes for his teammates.

Although Diogu's three-pointer at the 18:43 mark of the second half put theSun Devils ahead for good, the big man was just warming up. He later buriedanother trey from the top of the key on a pass from senior point guardKyle Dodd.

'We watched tape on him, but once you get out there on the court, it's awhole different story,' Memphis senior center Earl Barron said. 'He's by farone of the best freshman I've played against. He plays in control, he'ssmart, he doesn't try to do anything he knows he can't do and he just playsreal unselfish.'

Diogu helped ASU put the game away in the final three minutes with a pair ofrim-rattling dunks. He threw them down after receiving crisp passes fromsenior forward Shawn Redhage and senior shooting guard Curtis Millage, bothof whom penetrated through the lane and dealt the ball at precisely the righttime.

'They were doing a good job sagging down on me, so there was a reason why ourguards weren't throwing the ball inside,' Diogu said. 'It was just a matterof time. I just let it come to me.'

On Wednesday, Memphis head coach John Calipari expressed concern about Diogu,but there was little his team could do Thursday. The Sun Devils shot 69.6percent (16-for-23) from the field in the second half.

'The greatest thing about him when you watch him on tape is that histemperament never changes,' Calipari said. 'His temperament and what he doesis steady.'

REDHAGE STRONG AGAIN: After scoring in double figures in each of his lastfive games, Redhage continued his solid play Thursday when ASU needed it themost. He finished with 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field in acareer-high-tying 37 minutes. Redhage also had five rebounds, two assists andtwo steals.

BENCH COMES THROUGH: Having watched his bench score only two points in thelast two games, Sun Devil head coach Rob Evans knew his team needed moreproduction from its reserves. The subs didn't disappoint Thursday.

Sophomore point guard Jason Braxton scored five points on 2-of-2 shootingfrom the field. His three-pointer midway through the second half in part of a13-0 run over a four-minute stretch extended ASU's lead to 10 points.

Senior forward Donnell Knight chipped in six points, four of which came fromthe free-throw line in the closing minute. Junior guard Kenny Crandall addedone point in two minutes.

Even though senior forward Chris Osborne failed to score, his contributionscannot be overlooked. Osborne provided help against Massie during the finalfour minutes of the second half after Diogu picked up his second foul and heentered the game again with 1:23 left when Diogu fouled out.

'Late in the season, we shortened our bench and we went with about seven oreight guys because we were trying to get to the (NCAA) Tournament,' Evanssaid. 'I told these guys to be ready because we were going to play a lot ofguys. We played those guys quite a bit earlier in the year and mid-season, soI've got a lot of confidence in them.'

JAYHAWKS SURVIVE SCARE: Despite getting outscored in the second half, No. 2Kansas escaped with a 64-61 victory over No. 15 Utah State in Thursday'sfinale. Senior forward Desmond Penigar scored a game-high 25 points for theAggies, who missed a pair of three-pointers in the waning moments that wouldhave sent the game into overtime. Sophomore guard Keith Langford led Kansaswith 22 points and senior forward Nick Collison tossed in 18 points on9-of-12 shooting from the field.

'Needless to say, I think we're very fortunate,' Kansas head coach RoyWilliams said. 'We have no chance, no hope, if we don't play better Saturday.'

PAC-10 PERFECTION: The other three Pac-10 teams that played Thursday in theNCAA Tournament are also headed to the second round. No. 8 Californianarrowly defeated No. 9 North Carolina State, No. 1 Arizona cruised past No.16 Vermont and No. 4 Stanford handled No. 13 San Diego. No. 8 Oregon willface No. 9 Utah on Friday in Nashville.

'I know that often times, people on the East Coast and in the South don't geta chance to see Pac-10 basketball because it's played so late, but as Istated a long time ago, the Pac-10 is as good as any league in the country,'Evans said. 'I think that's been shown. We play tremendous basketball. Thereare some teams in the Pac-10 that aren't even in this tournament that arepretty good.'

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

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