Ducks Slip Past Sun Devils

March 13, 2003

By Brian Gomez,

LOS ANGELES -- The Arizona State men's basketball team has spent the last three years trying to shed the painful memories of a heartbreaking loss at Oregon that damaged its hopes for an NCAA Tournament berth in the 1999-2000 season, but they were all too familiar Thursday in the Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinals.

This time, the Sun Devils were the ones who overcame a large deficit in the game's waning moments. But the dreaded Lukes -- Jackson and Ridnour -- executed, perhaps, their team's single biggest play of the season.

After Jackson set a high screen on senior point guard Kyle Dodd, Ridnour flew by senior forward Tommy Smith and cruised to the hoop for the game-winning lay-up with 3.3 seconds remaining. The bucket lifted the No. 5-seeded Ducks to an 83-82 victory over No. 4 ASU before a crowd of 14,441 at Staples Center.

'It's a tough way to go out,' said Sun Devil head coach Rob Evans, whose team's postseason fate now rests in the hands of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, which will announce the field of 65 at 3 p.m. PT/4 p.m. MST Sunday on CBS. 'I thought our guys played pretty well in the second half and we gave ourselves a chance to win the ballgame. We did everything we needed to do in the ballgame late, except get a stop.'

All signs indicate that ASU (19-11, 11-7 Pac-10) will probably be dancing next week for the first time since 1995. Although nothing is a guarantee, especially for a team snubbed of NCAA Tournament berths in 1993 and 2000, despite winning 18 games both years and finishing in the top five in the Pac-10 on each occasion.

The only way the Sun Devils could conceivably not get an invitation is if one of the two lower-seeded teams were to run the table at the Pac-10 Tournament. No. 8 UCLA is still in the hunt after shocking No. 1 Arizona and No. 7 Southern California also remains in contention thanks to its narrow win over No. 2 Stanford.

'We need to bounce back and get ready for the NCAA Tournament,' said ASU senior forward Tommy Smith, who offset six turnovers with six assists and two steals and finished with 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the field. 'It is a big goal to get to the NCAA Tournament and to get to the Final Four, and that is the next step ahead. In the past, if we would have lost, that would have been our season. At least now, we get to play and we still have a chance to get a ring.'

The Sun Devils likely would already have cast any doubts concerning their NCAA Tournament status, had it not been for 18 turnovers and a 4-for-15 (26.7 percent) effort from three-point range. Oregon (21-9, 10-8) made the most of its opportunities by shooting 49.1 percent (27-for-55) from inside the arc and 80.8 percent (21-for-26) at the free-throw line.

ASU led by as many as 10 points late in the first half, but the Ducks cut the deficit to 41-40 at the break on the strength of a 12-5 run over the closing 4:31. Oregon claimed a 52-46 lead four minutes into the second half when Ridnour buried three-pointers on consecutive possessions, before junior guards Andre Joseph and James Davis hit shots from beyond the arc.

'We felt like the tempo of the game would be up and down,' Oregon head coach Ernie Kent said. 'They're such a good defensive team that you need to get out and run them, so you can get some easy transition buckets. That's what we tried to establish in the beginning of the game, and we talked about it again at halftime.'

The Ducks continued to control the tempo in the second half until Dodd again provided his team with a lift down the stretch. He scored six unanswered points in less than two minutes to help the Sun Devils close the gap to 69-67 with 4:38 remaining.

Dodd netted four of those points on just one trip up court when he made the first of two free throws and knocked down a three-pointer after freshman forward Ike Diogu rebounded his miss and kicked the ball out to the perimeter. Dodd then sank a pull-up jumper over Davis to cap the scoring spree.

'Kyle has been playing extremely well through the course of the year, but he really stepped up his game, as you would expect,' Evans said. 'All of these seniors have stepped up their games over the second half of the season. That's why we've had the success that we've had. Kyle takes care of the basketball and he's really made a difference on our team.'

Oregon wasted little time regaining momentum with a 7-1 run over a two-minute stretch that pushed the margin to eight points. But ASU responded, as senior shooting guard Curtis Millage hit two free throws and scored on a driving lay-up and Diogu tossed in a pair of baskets.

'They can run, but we can hang with anybody in the nation,' said Millage, who had 25 points on 9-of-18 shooting from the field. 'We can go out and play with anyone, too.'

Millage nailed a three-pointer over Davis on a pass from Smith to bring the Sun Devils within two points with 14.6 seconds to go. They got the ball back two seconds later when Ridnour's in-bounds pass under the basket skipped off Jackson's fingertips.

Diogu made the Ducks pay for their miscue with a three-point play, his 28th of the season, on an in-bounds pass from junior guard Kenny Crandall. The unexpected turn of events gave ASU an 82-81 lead with 12.1 seconds remaining.

'Coach Evans drew up the play and it worked to perfection,' said Diogu, who marked his seventh double-double of the season with a game-high 27 points and 18 rebounds, the most in Pac-10 Tournament history and the most by a freshman in school history. 'I was supposed to screen my man, I rolled to the basket and I was wide open. Kenny gave me a good pass and I just finished the lay-up.'

But the Lukes then pulled out the heroics. Kent said his team runs that exact play in practice nearly every day and Evans even had an inkling about what Oregon had in mind for its final possession.

'We knew they were going to go to (Ridnour) and that he was going to attack the basket,' Evans said. 'We told them to switch on the high screen and Tommy was supposed to switch on the screen, but he just didn't get there in time and Luke made a good play on it.'

Millage's prayer from well beyond the mid-court stripe as time expired failed to draw iron. The Sun Devils didn't have any timeouts left.

Ridnour finished with a team-high 23 points and Jackson had 17. Davis added 16 points, while senior forward Robert Johnson tossed in 13 points and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds for the Ducks, who also turned the ball over 18 times.

GAME NOTES: ASU holds a 31-25 lead in the all-time series...The Sun Devils are 3-6 all-time in the Pac-10 Tournament. Four of those losses have come in the opening round...ASU fell to 3-2 this season in games played at neutral sites...Oregon became the first No. 5 seed to win a game in the opening round of the Pac-10 Tournament...Evans slipped to 3-7 all-time in conference tournaments...Redhage tallied 11 points in 34 minutes for his 12th double-figure scoring game of the season...Dodd had three assists and only one turnover to give him 79 assists and 14 turnovers in his last 19 games...Smith's six assists were one short of his career high...Millage is 42-for-46 (91.3 percent) from the charity stripe in his past eight outings.

UCLA STUNS UA: It took a little longer than some people originally anticipated, but UCLA head coach Steve Lavin finally pulled the rabbit out of his hat.

In one of the biggest upsets in Pac-10 Tournament history, No. 8-seeded UCLA celebrated a 96-89 overtime victory against No. 1 Arizona. The Bruins (10-18, 6-12) overcame a 15-point second-half deficit to shock the top-ranked Wildcats, who lost for only the third time this season.

UCLA trailed by three points with 9.6 seconds left in regulation before senior guard Ray Young drained a high-arcing three-pointer to draw even. The Bruins quickly took control in overtime when junior forward T.J. Cummings hit a turnaround jumper on his team's first possession. They made 10 of 12 free throws in the closing 3:40 to seal the deal.

Senior forward Jason Kapono (26 points) was one of five UCLA players to score in double figures. Sophomore center Channing Frye and senior forward Rick Anderson tallied 23 apiece for UA (25-3, 17-1).

USC SLIPS BY STANFORD: When looking at a box score of this game, you're probably wondering how No. 7-seeded Southern California managed to beat No. 2 Stanford.

The Trojans shot 38.5 percent (25-for-65) from the field and they were outrebounded 47-41, but what was lost in the numbers was their incentive to keep their postseason hopes alive. Stanford already had an NCAA Tournament berth locked up well before the game. USC took the first step along the road toward an automatic bid to the Big Dance with a 79-74 victory.

The Trojans (12-16, 6-12) hung on, despite nearly squandering a 15-point lead in the final 11 minutes and missing three free throws in the closing 25 seconds. The Cardinal (23-8, 14-4) pulled within three points with 1:07 left when junior guard Matt Lottich buried a trey and it had a chance to draw even on its ensuing possession, but Lottich misfired on a three-point try from the wing.

CAL HANDLES OREGON ST: At halftime, it looked like California might discover the same fate of its three higher-seeded predecessors, but the No. 3 Golden Bears used a 15-0 run midway through the second half to cruise to a 69-46 victory over No. 6 Oregon State.

California freshman guard Richard Midgley marked six of his game-high-tying 12 points in the scoring spree with three-pointers on consecutive possessions. The Golden Bears, the highest-seeded team remaining in a tournament full of surprises, held the Beavers (13-15, 6-12) scoreless for nearly nine minutes during the game-breaking stretch.

Senior guard Brian Wethers and senior forward Joe Shipp combined for 21 points on 10-of-24 shooting from the field. California (21-7, 13-5) also got a boost from sophomore forward Amit Tamir, who scored nine points and hauled down 10 rebounds in 26 minutes. Oregon State struggled from everywhere, shooting 27.3 percent (18-for-66) from the field, 16.7 percent (4-for-24) from beyond the arc and 60 percent (6-for-10) at the free-throw line.

UP NEXT: The Pac-10 Tournament is scheduled to continue Friday night with the semifinals at Staples Center. UCLA will face Oregon at 6:15 p.m. PT/7:15 p.m. MST and USC will meet California at 8:45 p.m. PT/9:45 p.m. MST. Both games can be seen on Fox Sports Net.

Reach the reporter at

Now on Pac-12 Network
11:00 PM PT

Airing on:

  • Pac-12 Network