Sun Devils Play Up Hill To Defeat San Diego

Dec. 29, 2003

by Brian Gomez,

The Arizona State men's basketball team simply needed a little jumpstart in its first game following a seven-day break for the holidays.

It finally came Monday, and from the most unlikely sources.

Playing with a sore left shoulder, junior point guard Jason Braxton marked a double-double with 15 points and a career-high 10 assists, and senior swingman Jamal Hill tossed in a career-high 18 points off the bench to propel the Sun Devils to an 89-70 victory over San Diego in the opening round of the ASU/ Hoops Classic at Wells Fargo Arena.

'They came in and gave us a lift,' Sun Devil head coach Rob Evans said. 'They're going to have to help us all along the way. That's why we try to play them some and try to get a little experience on them.'

ASU (6-2) advances to face Western Michigan, a 76-71 winner over Winthrop, in Tuesday's championship game (7:30 p.m.) at Wells Fargo Arena. San Diego (3-9) will meet Winthrop in the 5 p.m. consolation game.

After shedding rust early Monday, the Sun Devils picked up the pace on defense and fell into a groove on offense, even with sophomore sensation Ike Diogu held in check for most of the first half.

Hill provided the initial spark, scoring seven points on three successive possessions midway through the first half to give ASU its first lead of the game. He later scored on a baseline jumper from Braxton as the Sun Devils pulled ahead 32-28, before San Diego rattled off five unanswered points to reclaim the lead.

That's when ASU found its stride offensively in part of a 13-2 run over the closing three minutes of the first half that turned a close game into a one-sided affair.

Coming off the bench, senior guard Kenny Crandall started the burst with a three-pointer from the wing. Braxton sandwiched four points around freshman forward Keith Wooden's turnaround jumper, and junior guard Steve Moore scored on an acrobatic layup off the glass.

With four seconds left, Braxton tossed an alley-oop to Diogu, who laid in a bucket to complete the scoring stretch and give the Sun Devils a 45-35 lead heading into halftime.

'I wanted to get out there on the defensive end and get the team going,' said Braxton, who played with more than a handful of stitches in his left armpit as a result of surgery he had last week to remove swollen lymph nodes. 'I didn't plan on scoring like I did today. I just wanted to play hard defense and run the team, and get them fired up, so we could get a win.'

The Sun Devils picked up where they left off in the second half, stringing together nine consecutive points over a three-minute stretch to take a 16-point lead that eventually grew to 26 points.

'San Diego could have come back easily if we would have let up, but (Evans) got after us, and we just picked up our intensity,' Hill said. 'Like coach Evans says, once you have a team on their back, if you just keep giving it to them and if you just keep breaking them down, sooner or later they're going to give in, and that's what they did.'

Diogu finished with 15 points and nine rebounds on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. Moore had 11 points on a 5-for-8 effort from inside the arc.

As a team, ASU forced 16 turnovers and shot 56.9 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range. The Sun Devils outrebounded San Diego, 43-29.

INJURY UPDATE: Freshman guard Tron Smith didn't play Monday because of a broken nose that he suffered in practice over the weekend. His nose will likely require surgery, causing him to miss as many as three to four weeks.

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)-- Jamal Hill scored 18 points while Jason Braxton added 15 and had a career-high 10 assists to lead Arizona State past San Diego 89-70 Monday in the first round of the Sun Devils' Hoops Classic.

Arizona State (6-2) faces Western Michigan, a 76-71 winner over Winthrop earlier Monday, in the championship game on Tuesday.

Arizona State went on a 9-0 run near the end of the first half and led 45-35 at halftime. The Toreros never got closer than seven in the second half. Arizona State led by as much as 26.

Nick Lewis had 18 points for San Diego (3-9), which has lost five of its last seven.

Lewis scored 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting in the first seven minutes but got only one attempt the rest of the half. He finished the night 7-of-11 from the field including two 3-pointers.

Ike Diogu added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Sun Devils.

Brett Melton added 13, including 3-for-3 from beyond the 3-point line, for San Diego. Brad Lechtenberg added 12 points, all on 3-pointers.

The Sun Devils took advantage of 16 Torero turnovers and scored 18 points. Arizona State also outrebounded San Diego 43-26.

Hill had 12 of his points in the first half and Jason Braxton added 10 of his by halftime as the Sun Devils rallied from an early deficit.

Arizona State scored nine straight points early in the second half and later scored 11 in a row to take a 74-50 lead with 9:16 left.

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