Feb 13, 2003
By Brian Gomez, TheSunDevils.com
The Sun Devil men's basketball team made moves characteristic of a racecar driver Thursday night.
A hot start out of the blocks translated into a commanding lead and allowed for a smooth cruise to the finish line. Arizona State did it by relying on its proven leaders and by receiving solid contributions from a number of others, while getting the job done on the defensive end -- something that has become its trademark for success this season.
Less than a month after sustaining a two-point loss in Los Angeles, the Sun Devils were the ones celebrating in victory lane after a 108-78 shellacking of Southern California before a crowd of 10,104 at Wells Fargo Arena.
"We basically took them out of everything they tried to run," said ASU head coach Rob Evans, whose team forced 17 turnovers and held the Trojans to 43.8 percent (28-for-64) shooting from the field. "We've just been competing against each other pretty hard, so our defense has gotten better every day."
Five players scored in double figures for the Sun Devils, who out-rebounded USC 42-28 and shot 60 percent (36-for-60) from inside the arc, thanks to steady perimeter play and consistent ball movement. Freshman forward Ike Diogu and senior shooting guard Curtis Millage combined for 53 points on 20-of-27 shooting from the field.
"I just tried to take what the opposition gave me," said Diogu, who made 11 of 13 shots for 26 points. "On any given night, I could go for 20 points or I could go for five. I just pick my spots."
ASU (16-7, 8-4 Pac-10) blew the doors open early on the strength of a 12-0 run over a four-minute stretch. Millage accounted for four of his career-high-tying 27 points during the scoring spree with a pull-up jumper and a lay-in on an outlet pass from senior forward Donnell Knight.
"Guys showed a lot of leadership by passing the ball around," said Millage, who was 9-for-14 from the field and a perfect 8-for-8 at the free-throw line. "When we get it inside and when we keep moving and cutting hard, everything works for you. If you have a big man in the middle and if you've got good guards and forwards around him, everything is going to fall for you as long as you play to your strength."
The Sun Devils grabbed a 30-8 lead with 9:16 remaining in the first half when a pair of stellar defensive plays led to more production on offense.
Senior forward Tommy Smith buried a three-pointer after ASU forced sophomore center Rory O'Neil into being whistled for a five-second in-bounds violation. Sun Devil junior swingman Jamal Hill then drained another shot from beyond the arc seconds after Millage drew an offensive foul against sophomore guard Errick Craven.
"It started with the defense," said Hill, who had 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field in 20 minutes. "When we play great defense, everything else falls from there. We denied the ball and limited their touches."
USC (10-10, 5-6) finally reached double figures with 7:24 left in the first half before the Sun Devils went on a 15-4 run to push the margin to 34 points. Diogu converted two three-point plays during the scoring stretch with a hanging shot over junior forward Jerry Dupree and a lay-in off a behind-the-back pass from senior forward Shawn Redhage.
"It was our worst night defensively," USC head coach Henry Bibby said. "We played no defense at all."
Junior guard Desmon Farmer tossed in five of his game-high 29 points late in the second half as the Trojans went on a 9-0 run that cut the deficit to 58-30 at intermission. But ASU wasted little time revving up its engines again in the second half, despite USC's stifling full-court press.
The Sun Devils put the game well out of reach when Millage sank an uncontested three-pointer, before Diogu made a reverse layup and Hill found the bottom of the net on a 15-foot jumper. ASU had a 73-46 lead with 14:41 remaining, and there was no reason to look in the rearview mirror.
GAME NOTES: The Trojans lead the all-time series 39-27...the Sun Devils won for only the second time in the past 11 meetings between the schools...the 108 points mark the most ASU has scored this season and the second most it has scored in Evans' four-plus years at the helm...the 58 first-half points mark the most the Sun Devils have posted in 23 games this season. They had 56 at the break Nov. 26 against Chaminade in the Maui Invitational...in the past two seasons, ASU is 28-4 (.875) when it leads at the half...the Sun Devils are 135-for-186 (.726) at the charity stripe in the past seven games...ASU sophomore point guard Jason Braxton had a career-high-tying seven assists and he didn't turn the ball over in 25 minutes...Diogu is averaging 19.4 points and 9.8 rebounds in his last five games. He is also shooting 61.7 percent (140-for-227) from the field on the season to rank second in the Pac-10 and he is at 67.3 percent (76-for-113) in conference games...Millage is 28-for-35 (.800) at the free-throw line in the past seven outings and he is 64-for-122 (.525) from the field in the last 11 games...Smith is two points shy of becoming the 28th Sun Devil to join the school's 1,000-point club.
REDHAGE CONTINUES TO PLAY WELL: Buoyed by an 8-for-9 effort from the charity stripe, Redhage finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds in 27 minutes for the second double-double of his career. He turned the ball over five times, but atoned for his miscues with four assists and one block.
"I know I'm not going to be able to score 29 points every night," said Redhage, alluding to his career outing last week at Washington. "I just wanted to play solid and try to help this team win. If I do that, things will be going well."
A PERFECT NIGHT FROM FIELD: Smith made all four shots he attempted and hit six of nine free throws to finish with 15 points in only 14 minutes. He also recorded three of his team's six blocks to give him a Pac-10-leading 55 on the season.
UP NEXT: The Sun Devils will return to action at 1:30 p.m. Saturday when they host UCLA at Wells Fargo Arena in a game that can be seen on ABC. The Bruins (5-15, 2-9) are coming off a 106-70 loss to No. 1-ranked Arizona.
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