Sun Devils Blow By Arkansas-Little Rock 89-72
Nov 22, 2003
By Brian Gomez, TheSunDevils.com
It took an anxious 20 minutes, but Arizona State finally started playing more like the team that advanced to last year's NCAA Tournament and less like its exhibition form.
Sparked by a 23-8 run to start the second half, the Sun Devils pushed a one-point halftime cushion to double digits and never looked back in an 89-72 win over Arkansas-Little Rock in front of 8,893 at Wells Fargo Arena.
Junior guard Steve Moore paced ASU in the season opener, scoring a game-high 26 points, including 10 during the turning stretch. Sophomore forward Ike Diogu added 24 points, to go along with eight rebounds and a career-high five blocks, while junior point guard Jason Braxton marked 10 points and dished out seven assists, which matched a career high.
'The first basketball game on any level is a tough basketball game,' said Sun Devil head coach Rob Evans, whose team outscored Little Rock 49-33 in the second half after a shaky first half in which it turned the ball over nine times and was beaten on the boards.
Playing with a black 'Ned' patch on his jersey to honor former ASU head coach Ned Wulk, Moore scored on a three-pointer from the top of the key, then on a banker after Diogu drained a pair of free throws.
Moore benefited from a shooter's roll on his team's next trip up the floor when his three-point attempt hit the front of the rim, before clanking gently off the glass and rolling through the hoop.
'Coach gives the wings and basically everyone on our team the green light, as long as you're taking shots within the continuity of our game, so I felt like I had the green light,' said Moore, who was 6-for-10 from the floor, 4-for-7 from beyond the arc and 10-for-10 from the free-throw line in 28 minutes. 'Once I hit one or two, I felt like I was going to be pretty hot. That's why you probably caught me smiling.'
Braxton helped the Sun Devils maintain their double-digit lead by sandwiching a finger roll off the glass and a high-flying dunk around a fadeaway jumper. His dunk gave ASU (1-0) a 63-47 lead with 12:13 left.
'They were leaving me wide open, so I felt like I had to take up the slack and knock down a couple open shots, and try to drive and penetrate, and set up other guys for wide-open shots,' said Braxton, whose seven assists tied a career high. 'That's what I did so they would start playing me and they wouldn't be playing four on five anymore.'
As a team, the Sun Devils, who started two freshmen (Tron Smith andKeith Wooden)for the first time since the 1990-91 season, shot 43.6 percent from the field and 30 percent from three-point range. They were 81.4 percent from the free-throw line, and they outrebounded Little Rock 42-35. ASU made 35-of-43 free throws, the most made free throws since the 1993 season.
'They had me locked up pretty good, but fortunately Steve Moore came out and was hitting those big shots, and really opened everything up,' Diogu said.
With Diogu flashing from the perimeter to the low post, Little Rock (0-1) grabbed a slim lead early in the first half, but ASU managed to stay close behind Moore, who scored eight of his team's first 10 points.
Later in the first half, the Sun Devils reeled off seven unanswered points to take a 36-30 edge, before Little Rock junior forward Darius Eason scored six straight to trim the deficit. ASU led 40-39 at halftime.
'We were very impatient, and I knew that was going to happen with young kids,' Evans said. 'The first time out, they want to be impressive when the lights are on. We went away from Ike a lot, but in the second half we showed some patience and got the basketball to him, so it opened up everything for everybody else.'
UP NEXT: ASU returns to action at 7 p.m. Monday against Cal State Fullerton. The game can be heard on ESPN Radio 860 AM.
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By MEL REISNER
AP Sports Writer
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Transfer Steve Moore, the perimeter threat Arizona Statelacked last season, scored 26 points in his major college debut and Ike Dioguhad 24 in the Sun Devils' 89-72 win over Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday.
Diogu, the only preseason All-American in Arizona State history afterearning Pac-10 freshman of the year honors in 2002-03, also had eight reboundsand a career-high five blocks.
Nick Zachery scored 25 points for the Trojans, who led early but couldn'thold on for an opening win for new coach Steve Shields. Jamal Holden had 12points and Darius Eason 10.
Moore made two 3-pointers, a 12-foot bank shot and two free throws duringArizona State's 23-8 run to start the start the second half.
Braxton, who tied a career high with seven assists, closed the surge withthree straight field goals for a 63-47 lead with 12:14 remaining.
The Trojans got no closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Zachery had 10 points in the first 4:53, and Arizona State, starting twofreshmen in an opener for the first time in 13 years, trailed by as many as sixpoints early on.
Diogu, forced outside by double-teaming, finally scored on a 3-pointer with13:06 left in the half. He had eight more points before the half ended, sendingthe Sun Devils to a 36-30 lead with 4:31 to go.
But Eason had two baskets and two free throws, allowing the Trojans to closewithin 40-39 at halftime.