No. 19 Stanford Shakes Off ASU

By Brian Gomez,

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- The Arizona State men's basketball team was struck with a feeling of deja vu Thursday night at a place where that unsightly sentiment has become commonplace in recent years.

For the second time in as many games, the Sun Devils were victimized by a run that proved to be too large to overcome. No. 19-ranked Stanford delivered the blow midway through the first half in the form of a 13-0 run over a two-minute stretch and later withstood a series of comeback attempts by ASU, which fell 88-77 before a crowd of 7,074 at Maples Pavilion.

'Our defense hasn't been as solid as it had to be during the last couple games and our work on the glass has to improve for us to be able to win on the road,' said Sun Devil head coach Rob Evans, whose team dropped into a tie for fourth place in the Pac-10 with Oregon, a 79-66 winner against Southern California. 'We have to become a better rebounding team and a betterdefensive team to finish strong in this league.'

ASU (17-9, 9-6 Pac-10) will have an extra day to lick its wounds and prepare for No. 23 California, which suffered an 88-75 loss against top-ranked Arizona. The sense of urgency for Sunday's outing at Haas Pavilion has been jacked up quite a few notches because the Sun Devils can't afford to slip much lower in the conference standings with only three regular-season games remaining.

'I'd like to go at it on Saturday, but it's good that the game is on Sunday because we'll get to learn new things and old things that we need to do to win games,' said ASU senior guard Curtis Millage, who scored 21 points Thursday on 8-of-14 shooting from the field.

Unlike the Wildcats, who spent about seven minutes last week turning a close game into a lopsided victory over the Sun Devils, the Cardinal (22-6, 13-3) delivered a succinct series of strikes that packed more punch than some of the ripples felt along the nearby San Andreas Fault System.

Stanford junior forward Joe Kirchofer started the scoring spree by knocking down two free throws after forcing ASU freshman forward Ike Diogu into picking up his second foul with 12:39 remaining in the first half. Even with Diogu confined to the bench, the Cardinal didn't try to exploit the low post by feeding the ball inside to sophomore center Rob Little, who finished with 10 points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes.

Stanford instead continued to rely on its outside shot. The strategy worked to perfection.

Sophomore swingman Josh Childress drained a three-pointer from the top of the key and senior guard Julius Barnes netted six of his game-high 29 points on the strength of back-to-back treys. Stanford freshman swingman Dan Grunfeld then hit a pull-up jumper on a pass from Childress to add to the onslaught.

By the time the floor had finally stopped shaking at Maples Pavilion, the Sun Devils had seen their five-point lead turn into an eight-point deficit.

'I don't think we forced too many shots,' Barnes said. 'We were just taking good shots, and as a result, they were going in.'

The Cardinal pushed the margin to 48-36 in the waning moments of the first half when Barnes drove through the paint and sank a floater over the outstretched arms of ASU senior point guard Kyle Dodd. But the Sun Devils responded after intermission with a run that had Stanford head coach Mike Montgomery biting his tongue to keep from receiving his second technical foul.

Millage provided the initial spark with a pull-up jumper on a pass from senior forward Donnell Knight and a coast-to-coast lay-up. Senior forward Shawn Redhage and Knight then connected on back-to-back jumpers and Diogu converted a three-point play to bring the Sun Devils within shouting distance with 14:50 left.

However, the Cardinal came storming back with a 6-0 run that pushed the lead to double digits with 11:57 remaining. Sophomore swingman Nick Robinson made a jumper from the top of the key, junior forward Justin Davis laid in a bucket on an in-bounds pass from junior guard Matt Lottich and Little tossed in a basket from point-blank range.

'Toward the end of the year, we're looking for solid performances and guys doing what they can do,' Little said. 'If I can give 10 points and 10 rebounds every night for my team and if we're winning, there's really nothing else I can do.'

ASU threatened again four minutes later when sophomore point guard Jason Braxton and Diogu both converted three-point plays. The Sun Devils were down by only six points with 4:16 to go after Diogu drew Little out to the high post and buried a jumper in his face. They had a chance to slice into the lead even further, but Diogu fouled out for the first time this season with 3:27 remaining and senior forward Tommy Smith missed a pair of free throws that left a window of opportunity for Stanford.

'I wouldn't say that they were any more aggressive than any team I faced this year,' said Diogu, who negated four turnovers with nine rebounds and 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field in 33 minutes. 'I just made some bad decisions that ended up costing us. It's tough because you definitely want to be out there with your teammates. We were making a pretty good run, but sometimes that just happens and you've got to move on.'

Barnes seized the moment by hitting another floater in the lane over Dodd, before making two free throws. Childress put back Lottich's missed three-pointer with 1:38 left to send the game well out of reach.

'Julius missed some shots against the zone, but he handled the pressure real well,' Montgomery said. 'Every time we got in trouble, Julius would jump up and it seemed like he'd make a basket. They defended our perimeter very well, but we didn't force it, and like we have all year, we kept our poise.'

As a team, the Sun Devils shot 47.5 percent (29-for-61) from the field, but they were 25 percent (3-for-12) from three-point range and 61.5 percent (16-for-26) at the charity stripe. The Cardinal struggled from the line (25-for-37), however, they atoned for their miscues by shooting 51.9 percent (28-for-54) from inside the arc. Stanford also held a 37-30 advantage on the boards.

GAME NOTES: The Cardinal lead the all-time series 30-24...Stanford has won the past 11 meetings between the schools...Redhage tallied 10 points in 28 minutes for his eighth double-figure scoring game this year. He had only three in his junior campaign...Dodd didn't turn the ball over Thursday and he had two assists to give him 34 assists and just four turnovers in his past seven games...Diogu converted a trio of old-fashioned three-point plays to give him 25 on the season. He is shooting 60.7 percent (165-for-272) from the field and he is at63.9 percent (101-158) in Pac-10 play...Millage is 20-for-21 (95.2 percent) from the free-throw line in his last four games.

UP NEXT: ASU will return to action at 12:30 p.m. PT/1:30 p.m. MST Sunday when traveling to California. The game can be seen locally on Fox Sports Net and will be on NBC 1190 AM in Phoenix.

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AP Sports Writer

STANFORD, Calif. - Before the Stanford basketball team would sing 'Happy Birthday' to its coach, Mike Montgomery had to explain his technical foul - his first of the season on the day he turned 56.

It didn't matter much.

Julius Barnes scored 29 points and No. 19 Stanford increased its season-best winning streak to six games, defeating Arizona State 88-77 Thursday night.

Barnes was 4-for-4 on 3-pointers and made all 13 of his free throws as the Cardinal (22-6, 13-3 Pac-10) won for the 10th time in 11 games and 13th in 15. They have won nine straight at home and 11 in a row against the Sun Devils.

'We serenaded him in the locker room,' Barnes said of Montgomery.

Montgomery was whistled for a technical in the first half for bumping a referee, something the coach said was an accident. He believed a fight was about to break out in the corner of the court by Stanford's bench and was trying to get in position to assist in breaking it up if necessary, he said.

The fans didn't hold it against him. Stanford's band performed the Beatles' 'Birthday' for Montgomery minutes after the final buzzer.

'This was a very winnable game for us ... We should have pulled this one off and we all feel really bad about it.'

'Were they serenading me?' Montgomery asked. 'I wasn't listening. After a certain age, you don't do birthdays anymore.'

He had better things to be concerned with - like Arizona State freshman Ike Diogu.

Diogu, who entered the game averaging 19.7 points and 9.4 rebounds in his past seven games, had 26 points on 10-for-14 shooting and nine rebounds before fouling out for the first time all season with 3:27 left. Curtis Millage added 21 points.

'This was a very winnable game for us,' Diogu said. 'We had our chances, but we had some defensive lapses at key times late in the game and we blew it. We should have pulled this one off and we all feel really bad about it.'

Josh Childress had 19 points, seven rebounds and two blocks for Stanford, which hosts No. 1 Arizona on Saturday in Maples Pavilion. Justin Davis had 11 rebounds.

The Sun Devils (17-9, 9-6) have lost consecutive games to ranked teams, and they play at 23rd-ranked California on Sunday. Arizona State lost to Arizona last Saturday in Tempe, 92-72.

After struggling early, Arizona State began the second half with an 8-2 run, the first four points by Millage. The Sun Devils were more aggressive on offense and going to the boards. But Stanford withstood every challenge by hitting big baskets or making other key plays, such as drawing an offensive foul.

When Diogu scored with 11:02 remaining, his team's first basket in nearly four minutes, Childress sank a 3-pointer to make it 62-51.

And after Childress shot an airball from long-range with 8:52 to go, Stanford still turned the play into two points. Matt Haryasz controlled the rebound, was fouled and converted both free throws.

In the first half, Barnes had nine points in a span of 3:37, including back-to-back 3-pointers during a 13-0 run in which the Cardinal had three straight 3s. The spurt followed a 7-0 run by the Sun Devils in which they built a 16-11 lead.

'They were falling in for me tonight, so I was lucky,' Barnes said. 'I'm concentrating a lot more now that it's late in the season. I'm just trying to help this team get as far as it can into the postseason.

'We're playing with more intensity. We've been here before and we know the level we have to sustain to win.'

Stanford shot 65.4 percent (17-for-26) in the first half and led by as many as 13 to build a 48-36 halftime lead. The Cardinal shot 51.9 percent for the game.

Arizona State, the top team in the conference in field-goal percentage at 49.1 percent, was limited to 47.5 shooting.

The Sun Devils' Donnell Knight went to the bench just 4:21 into the game after getting hit in the throat and then having breathing trouble. He sat the rest of the half, but returned to start after halftime and had three assists.

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