Sun Devils Slip Up At Utah

By Brian Gomez,

SALT LAKE CITY -- While playing in the forefront of snowy mountains andbarren fields instead of sandy beaches and breathtaking overlooks, the ASUmen's basketball team learned what a difference a little time and change inscenery can make.

The Sun Devils looked flat and sluggish Saturday night before a crowd of10,604 at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, just 10 days after bringing a burst ofenergy in an 83-79 overtime victory against Utah at the Maui Invitational.This time, they couldn't dig themselves out of a hole when suffering a 78-55loss to the Utes in a game that turned ugly early in the second half.

'Until these guys get committed on the defensive end of the floor, thereare going to be nights like this,' said ASU head coach Rob Evans, whose teamwas victimized by Utah's 55.6 percent shooting from the field. 'On the road,you've got to defend and you've got to show some patience on the offensiveend. They did neither one of them.'

Although the Sun Devils (4-3) again struggled at the free-throw line whenconnecting on only 64.7 percent of their attempts, that was the least oftheir problems. Freshman forward Ike Diogu played a mere 21 minutes whenplagued by foul trouble, senior forward Tommy Smith was virtually nonexistentafter the break and sophomore point guard Jason Braxton continued to strugglefrom the field, making only 1 of 8 shots for two points.

'I would have loved to have seen (Diogu) have had a chance to play,'Evans said. 'Then we would have seen the real Ike Diogu. He's a tremendousplayer and it's unfortunate he didn't get a chance to play very long.'

Three days after having difficulty containing the trees from BrighamYoung, ASU had trouble keeping Utah's post players in check. Junior centerTim Frost, senior forward Britton Johnsen and freshman forward Bryant Marksoncombined for 44 points. The Utes, who forced the Sun Devils into committing17 turnovers and scored 24 points off their miscues, won the battle on theboards 31-29 and held a 40-20 edge in the paint.

'We didn't do anything we did the last time we beat them,' said juniorswingman Justin Allen, who drained a pair of three-pointers in the first halfto keep the Sun Devils competitive as Diogu sat on the bench with threefouls. 'It comes down to execution and defense. We didn't do that, and that'swhy the score ended up the way it was.'

Utah (4-2) went on an 8-5 run over the final 5:17 of the first half tostretch its lead to 10 points at intermission. But then things quicklyunraveled as a close game turned into a blowout.

With Diogu confined to the bench in foul trouble, ASU turned the ballover four times, missed 12 of its next 13 shots and was off the mark on fourconsecutive attempts from the charity stripe as Utah went on a 21-2 run overa seven-minute stretch to extend the margin to 29 points. To add insult toinjury, Evans was whistled for his first technical foul of the season with12:29 remaining after arguing a no-call on senior forward Shawn Redhage'sdrive to the basket.

'For 40 minutes, we were lost. We didn't look like a University team, welooked like a high school team playing out there,' ASU senior shooting guardCurtis Millage said. 'We were getting the looks we wanted, but we wererushing it too early on the shot clock instead of being patient. Our defensewas sad. We didn't play any defense at all.'

Diogu knocked down a pair of shots from beyond the arc late in the secondhalf to finish in double figures for the seventh straight game. He had ateam-high 15 points and was a perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw line. Smithand Millage tallied 11 apiece.

GAME NOTES: The Utes hold a 25-17 lead in the all-time series...Utah haswon five in a row against ASU in Salt Lake the past two seasons,the Sun Devils are 0-13 when trailing at halftime...ASU was 6-for-16 fromthree-point range...Redhage and senior forward Donnell Knight werescoreless in a combined 28 minutes.

UP NEXT: The Sun Devils will return to Wells Fargo Arena at 7 p.m.Tuesday when hosting Nevada. The game will mark ASU's last before an 11-daybreak for final exams. It will be broadcast on KAZ-TV.

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