Diogu Shines In Sun Devils' Blowout Win

Feb. 6, 2003

By Brian Gomez, TheSunDevils.com

PULLMAN, Wash. -- After blowing out Washington State by 41 points last month at Wells Fargo Arena, the Sun Devil men's basketball team had to work a lot harder Thursday night in the Palouse.

But with the aid of a workhorse in the form of one of the nation's top freshmen, a sizzling effort from everywhere on the floor and solid contributions from a number of players, Arizona State made it look simple.

The end result for the Sun Devils was an 87-54 shellacking of Washington State before a sparse crowd of 1,814 at Friel Court.

'I don't think any game at the collegiate level is easy,' said ASU freshman forward Ike Diogu, who recorded his third consecutive double-double with a game-high 26 points and a game-high 10 rebounds on 11-of-15 shooting from the field in only 27 minutes. 'They had strong and athletic post players and they got a few baskets on me, too. It wasn't easy at all.'

The Sun Devils (14-7, 6-4 Pac-10) controlled the tempo of a game in which they forced 20 turnovers and held a depleted Washington State team to 45.5 percent (20-for-44) shooting from inside the arc. The Cougars (5-14, 0-10) were without junior guard Marcus Moore, who is sidelined for the season after undergoing surgery to remove bone chips in his right ankle, and several of their other players are still recovering from injuries.

'They'll tell you they're just not in condition to play right now,' Washington State head coach Paul Graham said. 'We tried to sub, but we turned the ball over. Once we turned it over, we got down and that really got us in a bind.'

Junior swingman Jamal Hill provided an early spark for ASU, which shot 65.4 percent (34-for-52) from the field, a school-record-tying 72.7 percent (8-for-11) from three-point range and 78.6 percent (11-for-14) at the charity stripe. Hill scored nine of his 11 points on treys in the first half.

'I never lost confidence in my shot even though I wasn't making a lot of shots,' said Hill, who credits his increased offensive production to several late-night shooting sessions that included as many as 2,000 shots and sometimes didn't start until 10 p.m. 'I knew that if I played solid defense and hustled that I would get those opportunities because I would be on the floor more.'

Diogu had just three field goals through the first 13 minutes before he exploded with something rarely seen in the collegiate game. He knocked down a pair of free throws, tossed in a basket while getting fouled, slammed home a dunk, put back a missed layup at the buzzer, laid in a bucket, threw down another dunk and cleaned up on a second missed shot.

When all was said and done, Diogu had scored 14 straight points for the Sun Devils over the last two minutes of the first half and the first two minutes of the second half to give his team a 58-39 lead with 17:52 remaining.

'The coaches are always talking about how people have to step up and make plays,' said Diogu, whose 26 points mark the eighth most by a freshman in a single game in school history. 'I consider myself to be the playmaker. I just tried to get the rest of the team going and they put me in a pretty good position to score. They all did a good job of delivering the ball right on target.'

ASU added to the onslaught early in the second half when senior forward Tommy Smith began heating up. Smith buried a three-pointer on a pass from Hill to push the margin up to 20 points. He later knocked down a baseline jumper and converted a spinning layup with 9:16 to go for the last of his season-high 17 points.

'I'm not really worried about focusing on anything, I just want to win,' Smith said. 'I'm one of the captains of the team and I feel like I can do whatever it takes for us to win the game. If it's rebounding, I'll go out there and rebound. If it's blocking shots and playing great defense, I've got to guard their best player every game. Today, I just happened to be scoring a little bit more.'

The Sun Devils looked somewhat complacent in the game's opening minutes, but they responded with a 7-0 run that erased Washington State's 10-6 advantage after head coach Rob Evans burned an early timeout. Senior shooting guard Curtis Millage stole an errant pass at mid-court and laid in an uncontested bucket at the other end, before sinking a shot from beyond the arc on ASU's ensuing possession for three of his 13 points in part of the scoring spree.

Sun Devil senior forward Shawn Redhage finished with nine points despite playing only 12 minutes while in foul trouble. ASU also got big things from senior guard Kyle Dodd, who not only had four points and a season-high six assists in 23 minutes, but also caused numerous turnovers thanks to his aggressive play on the defensive end.

'I liked the way he ran the team and I liked his defense,' Evans said. 'I certainly liked the way he came in and ran the team in the first half.'

Three players scored in double figures for Washington State, which featured its eighth different starting lineup of the season. Sophomore guard Chris Schlatter led the way with a team-high 14 points, while senior guard Justin Lyman tossed in 13 and sophomore guard Thomas Kelati added 11.

GAME NOTES: The Sun Devils lead the all-time series 30-23. They have won 10 of the past 12 games between the schools, including the last three by an average of 42 points...ASU improved to 6-5 away from home this season...in the past two years, the Sun Devils are 26-4 (.867) when they lead at the half...ASU is 85-for-113 (.752) from the free-throw line in the past five games...with 52 points at halftime, the Sun Devils eclipsed the 50-point mark at the break for only the second time this season. They had 56 at the half Nov. 26 against Chaminade in the Maui Invitational...Diogu is shooting 64.6 percent (42-for-65)from the field in seven road games...in his first action since Jan. 4 at Oregon, ASU junior forward Justin Allen hit a shot from beyond the arc to give him three points in five minutes.

UP NEXT: The Sun Devils will return to action at 4 p.m. PT/5 p.m. MST Saturday when theyface Washington at Bank of America Arena in Seattle in a game that can be seen on Fox Sports Net. The Huskies (8-11, 3-7) are coming off an 88-85 overtime loss to No. 2-ranked Arizona.

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

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