Men's Basketball Holds Off Utah, 71-62

Dec 4, 2001

AP Sports Writer

PHOENIX - Utah coach Rick Majerus isn't having much fun in his first season back after a one-year absence.

Arizona State handled his team with relative ease Tuesday night, 71-62.

'Seven of these guys have never played for me before,' Majerus said, 'and it's an adventure for them and for myself.'

Junior college transfer Curtis Millage scored 10 of his 18 points over the final four minutes and Kyle Dodd scored all seven of his in the last two for Arizona State.

'I thought our guard play at the end of the ball game was the key to the ball game,' Arizona State coach Rob Evans said, 'because they controlled the tempo. They pushed it when they had transition baskets and they were smart enough to run the offense when they didn't.'

The Sun Devils (4-2) led by as many as 16 points early in the second half but the Utes slowly worked their way back.

Millage, a transfer from Los Angeles Southwest Junior College, hit baseline jumpers that gave Arizona State leads of 56-47 and 58-50. He put the game away with six consecutive free throws over the last 45 seconds.

'I was a little fatigued,' Millage said, 'but I sucked it up and went out there and played hard, just told myself `Knock it down.''

Utah (3-3) twice cut the lead to six late in the game, the last time at 58-52 on Britton Johnsen's 7-footer with 2:22 to play. Johnsen was fouled by Tommy Smith on the play, but missed the free throw.

Dodd made his only field goal in eight attempts on a drive to the basket to boost the lead to 60-52 with 1:49 to go, then made two free throws with 1:25 remaining to make it 62-52.

Arizona State, which never trailed after taking the lead midway through the first half, beat Utah for only the second time in their last 11 meetings.

The Utes have lost three of four in Majerus' return after a one-year absence to fight health problems and be with his mother, who was battling cancer.

'We're a little light on talent, no question about it, light on some athletic ability, light on some depth,' Majerus said. 'We definitely have some problems.'

But, he said, the players have not done the fundamental things required to succeed.

Chad Prewitt scored 12 points for the Sun Devils before leaving the game with a bruised Achilles' tendon. Donnell Knight and Smith also scored 12 each for Arizona State.

Chris Burgess scored 17 points and Nick Jacobsen had 16 for the Utes, who committed 23 turnovers that resulted in 21 Sun Devil points.

Arizona State outscored the Utes 6-1 over the last 1:17 of the first half to take a 39-27 lead.

Travis Spivey's 3-pointer cut the Sun Devils' lead to 33-26 with 3:38 left in the half. But Prewitt scored on a layup, Millage made two free throws and Smith hit a jump shot to put Arizona State up by 12.

Arizona State expanded the lead to 45-29 on Smith's inside hook with 17:50 to play.

The game was the second half of a doubleheader dubbed the Southwest Showdown at America West Arena. Seventh-ranked Arizona beat No. 5 Illinois 87-82 in the first game.

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