Men's Hoops Falls To USC In Final Seconds

Jan 18, 2003

By Brian Gomez,

LOS ANGELES -- The Arizona State men's basketball team was about half an inch away Saturday night from sweeping the Los Angeles schools on the road for only the third time in school history.

That's how close senior shooting guard Curtis Millage's three-pointer at the buzzer came from going in. The high-arcing shot that caromed off the front of the rim left the Sun Devils on the short end of a 76-74 loss to Southern California before a crowd of 5,172 at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

'I thought he got a good look,' said ASU head coach Rob Evans, whose team has only three days to prepare for a meeting with No. 2-ranked Arizona, which likely will move up to the top spot in the national polls as a result of its blowout win over UCLA, coupled with No. 1 Duke's 15-point loss to No. 15 Maryland.

The Sun Devils (12-5, 4-2 Pac-10) could have been heading into Wednesday's Battle of Interstate 10 with a heap of momentum had it not been for a questionable loose-ball foul by senior forward Tommy Smith with 3.9 seconds remaining in a tied game.

After ASU junior swingman Jamal Hill's jumper was partially blocked, streaking junior guard Desmon Farmer chased down an outlet pass at the far end the court. Farmer missed a five-footer in the paint, but Smith was whistled for a foul when attempting to grab the rebound under the basket.

'I'm one of the few people in this league who doesn't talk about officiating before or after the game,' Evans said. 'I just thought it was such a hard-fought ball game that the game deserved to go into overtime.'

Sophomore forward Gregg Guenther Jr., who returned to the hardwood only two weeks ago after playing as a reserve tight end for the USC football team that won the Orange Bowl, sank a pair of free throws that gave his team a two-point lead and left the Sun Devils with few options. While standing on the baseline, ASU junior guard Kenny Crandall tossed a crisp in-bounds passto Millage, who dribbled well beyond mid-court, split two defenders and came up just off the mark on a hanging shot from beyond the arc.

Millage was 2-for-8 from the field and finished with six points, all of which came on a pair of three-pointers on consecutive possessions in the final three minutes. Millage's bombs erased USC's lead, which stood at 43-36 at intermission and grew to as many as nine points in the second half.

After a sloppy first half in which they turned the ball over 13 times and saw Millage attempt only two shots, the Sun Devils clawed their way back into things, thanks to a spark from senior forward Donnell Knight and big contributions from freshman forward Ike Diogu. Knight scored eight of his 13 points in the first six minutes of the second half before Diogu made his presence felt with back-to-back three-point plays.

'(Knight) got rebounds, he hit some big shots and he followed up a couple of my misses,' said Diogu, who finished with a game-high 24 points, but uncharacteristically turned the ball over five times. 'He came in and just battled. He did everything the coaches asked him to do.'

ASU posted better numbers than USC (7-6, 3-2) from all areas of the floor by shooting 46.2 percent from the field (24-for-52) and from beyond the arc (6-for-13). The Sun Devils also were 20-for-23 (87 percent) at the charity stripe.

ASU held USC's two primary offensive threats -- Farmer and sophomore guard Errick Craven -- to a 14-for-27 effort from inside the arc. But Craven still managed to score a team-high 22 points and Farmer had 16, while sophomore center Rory O'Neil chipped in 12.

GAME NOTES: The Trojans hold a 39-26 lead in the all-time series...the Sun Devils have lost seven straight games at the Sports Arena...Smith recorded four blocks to give him a Pac-10-leading 44 on the season. He also turned the ball over six times...Diogu's 12 free-throw attempts gave him 146 on the year, which broke Mario Bennett's freshman record of 140 set in the 1991-92 campaign...ASU senior guard Kyle Dodd is 28-for-45 (62.2 percent) from the field on the season, including a 16-for-22 (72.7 percent) effort in the last 10 games.

UP NEXT: The Sun Devils will travel to Tucson to face the Wildcats (13-1, 6-0) at 7:30 p.m. MST Wednesday. The game can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona.

DOUBLE-DIGIT SCORING: Only five Pac-10 players have posted double digits in every game this year: Ike Diogu (Arizona State), Joe Shipp (California), Brian Wethers (California), Phillip Ricci (Oregon State) and Luke Ridnour (Oregon).

TICKET UPDATE: Less than 1,000 tickets remain for the Feb. 22 Arizona at Arizona State game at 7 p.m.

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