Western Michigan Rallies To Top ASU, 81-76

Dec. 30, 2003

By Brian Gomez, TheSunDevils.com

What was a final tuneup early in the second half turned out to be more of a wakeup call Tuesday for the Arizona State's men's basketball team.

Despite getting 30 points and 10 rebounds from sophomore forward Ike Diogu, the Sun Devils couldn't find the answers down the stretch, and didn't have an answer for Western Michigan junior guard Ben Reed, who exploded for a career-high 36 points, 21 of which came in the second half.

For ASU, the culmination of problems resulted in an 81-76 loss to Western Michigan in the championship game of the ASU/azcentral.com Hoops Classic in front of 8,669 at Wells Fargo Arena.

'We got the ball to (Diogu) quite a bit during the game, but not as much down the stretch as we would have liked,' said Sun Devil head coach Rob Evans, whose team hosts rival Arizona at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the Pac-10 opener after finishing the non-conference season with a 6-3 record. 'We were trying to get the basketball to him, and we were trying to run some sets to get the basketball to him. We didn't accomplish everything we wanted to accomplish.'

The Sun Devils had their fair share of chances in the game's closing minutes, but couldn't convert against an aggressive Western Michigan defense that sagged down on Diogu and limited looks for ASU's perimeter shooters.

In the final six minutes, Diogu attempted only two shots, one of which came on a long jumper as the Sun Devils searched for answers. ASU was held to only one field goal in the closing 6 1/2 minutes.

'We tried to go inside, but they did a good job of making sure two guys were on me,' said Diogu, who was 18-for-23 from the free-throw line, tying the school record for the most free throws attempted and the most free throws made in a single game. 'They did a lot of sagging, so it made it tough for the guards to throw it down low in the post.'

Western Michigan's physical style on both ends of the floor wore on the Sun Devils, who led by as many as nine points in the second half until Reed and senior forward Mike Williams found their stride on offense.

Sparked by an 8-0 run midway through the second half, Western Michigan (7-1) trimmed the deficit to one point, and pulled even with 9:09 left on Williams' jumper. Western Michigan went ahead 64-62 with 7:52 remaining when Reed made a reverse layup, but ASU evened things up less than three minutes later on freshman forward Wilfried Fameni's free throw.

Senior forward Anthony Kann scored on a drive to the post with 1:04 left, giving Western Michigan a four-point cushion that would later loom large. Junior guard Steve Moore's hanging three-pointer brought the Sun Devils within one point with 37.8 seconds to go.

ASU could have tied the game, or even gone ahead, with 23 seconds left after Reed clanked two free throws, but Braxton couldn't convert from the charity stripe, missing back-to-back attempts. Reed's four straight free throws sealed the deal.

'Western Michigan was the best team on the court tonight,' Evans said. 'Our guys fought hard, but we made way too many mistakes to beat a good team like Western Michigan.'

The Sun Devils out-shot the Broncos and won the battle on the boards, but committed 18 turnovers. ASU finished 44.7 percent from the field, 25 percent from three-point range and 66 percent from the foul line.

Other than Diogu, Moore was the only Sun Devil to score in double figures. He totaled 15 points and seven rebounds on 5-of-10 shooting from the field.

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

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