February 18, 2005
Arizona State’s tournament tease continued Thursday, as the Sun Devils did just enough to stay alive but not enough to impress anyone on the NCAA selection committee.
The Sun Devils squandered an 18-point second-half lead and even trailed briefly before pulling out a 75-73 win over Oregon State at Wells Fargo Arena. With the win, ASU (17-9, 6-8) moved into sixth place in the Pac-10 but more importantly kept its slim NCAA tournament chances alive.
Gutting out a tough conference win regardless of the location would seem to be the mark of a top team. But that was hardly the case against Oregon State, a team that had won three straight going into Thursday’s game but has yet to win a Pac-10 game on the road.
ASU coach Rob Evans was not concerned with the margin of victory, just the win.
"We did put them away. We won by two," Evans said. "A two-point win is like a rout to me. . . . The bottom line is it’s a ‘W.’ They didn’t put us away. We put them away."
After falling behind by 18 points early in the second half, Oregon State (14-10, 6-7) used a 16-6 run to get back in the game. The Beavers twice cut the lead to a single possession but both times Ike Diogu, who led ASU with 25 points, answered with a bucket in the post.
Oregon State finally broke through, taking a 63-62 lead with 6:20 to play when Diogu went to the bench with his fourth foul. It was the Beavers’ first and last lead of the game.
After the Sun Devils retook the lead, Oregon State tied the game at 67 on a Nick DeWitz jumper, but ASU answered by scoring five of the next six points.
DeWitz then hit a wide open 3-pointer with 24.5 seconds to play to cut the lead to one point. After Kevin Kruger hit two free throws, Beavers guard J.S. Nash was called for charging and Kruger iced the game with another free throw with 11.4 seconds to go.
"College basketball is a game of runs," said Bryson Krueger, who keyed a first-half ASU run that gave the Sun Devils their big lead. "We knew they were going to have their run. We just had to keep it to a minimum."
ASU led 14-12 with 9:41 remaining in the first half when Krueger took over.
Over the next five minutes, Krueger scored 13 of his 21 points as the Sun Devils went on a 19-6 run. He hit three 3-pointers on the run and assisted on a transition layup by Diogu, who was fouled on the play.
When Diogu missed his free throw — one of a career-high seven misses — Krueger grabbed the rebound and put it back in.
"He hit some big shots for us," Diogu said. "He’s a good shooter and when he hits shots with confidence, he doesn’t miss."
Both teams shot poorly through the first 10 minutes of the game. Oregon State missed its first nine shots and didn’t score its first field goal until five and a half minutes into the game.
The worst of the bunch was DeWitz, a Dobson High School graduate, who was 1-of-9 in his first Pac-10 game in his home state before hitting his final two shots to keep Oregon State in it late. DeWitz was 9-of-9 against ASU when the Sun Devils visited Corvallis.
ASU wasn’t much better, shooting just 5-of-15 before Krueger got hot.