OKLAHOMA CITY - Curtis Millage ripped off his jersey on his way to Arizona State's locker room and once he was inside yelled, “One more assist. I needed one more assist.”
He wasn't complaining, mind you. Just making an observation.
Millage, a senior guard, came within an assist of ASU's first-triple-double in the Sun Devils' 84-71 upset of Memphis on Thursday at the Ford Center.
He had 17 points, a career-high 11 rebounds and those nine assists, which were also a career high yet not quite enough. “I am just a little piece of the puzzle,” Millage said.
Thursday, he was all four corners.
“I think overall that was his best game,” said assistant coach Tony Benford. “He was just totally focused for 40 minutes.”
Millage normally is a slow starter. He tends to float around the periphery of a game for a few minutes before asserting himself.
But a 3-pointer off a loose ball just more than five minutes in Thursday got him started and he never stopped.
“He was all over the place,” said point guard Kyle Dodd.
Millage's most important moments came at the end of both halves.
Because of foul trouble, Ike Diogu and Tommy Smith were on the bench the last four minutes of the first half. ASU had to go with a jumbled lineup of Millage, Dodd, Jamal Hill, Shawn Redhage and Chris Osborne.
Memphis, naturally, turned a 28-26 deficit into a 33-30 lead with 1:26 remaining.
But on ASU's final possession Millage snaked through the Tigers for a layup, and the relieved Devils ran to the locker room, down only one point.
“I was sitting out there dribbling, and he wanted it bad,” Dodd said. “He made a great move.”
Then, in the final five minutes of the game, with Memphis clawing at ASU's lead, Millage had eight points, two rebounds, one assist and one steal.
Included in the highlight reel was an acrobatic layup that ended with Millage popping up off the floor and acknowledging coach Rob Evans' wife, Carolyn, with a point of the finger.
“If we get that kind of effort out of Curtis, we can do great things,” Redhage said.