December 13, 2004
The Arizona State men's basketball team is starting to resemble a classic jazz piece. As always, the song is built around the steady beat of forward Ike Diogu. But in recent games, the Devils have added other instruments.
On Sunday it was sophomore forward Bryson Krueger chiming in with his best performance as a Sun Devil.
Krueger scored a career-high 23 points, including 11 of his team's first 15 to help the Sun Devils (7-1) coast past UC Riverside, 75-59, at Wells Fargo Arena, earning the program's best start since the 1990-91 team went 9-1.
The former Mountain Pointe standout had 19 points in the first half and hit five-of-seven 3-pointers as the Highlanders (3-3) focused their defensive efforts on Diogu with a packed-in zone.
“I was just building off of last game," said Krueger, who made 8-of-10 shots and has connected on 13 of his past 16 field goal attempts. “I feel like every time I shoot the ball it's gonna go in."
Krueger's offense may have lit the Devils' fires Sunday, but it was ASU's defense that extinguished Riverside.
The Devils held the Highlanders to one field goal over a 6:48 stretch in the second half to turn a 51-42 lead into a 23-point bulge with 4:10 to play.
“We've been really working hard on our full court trap and I thought we did a pretty good job of creating some turnovers,” said ASU coach Rob Evans. “We wanted to get control of the tempo and I thought for about a five, six minute stretch in the first half and then in the second half, I really thought our defensive intensity picked up.”
Riverside's intensity was there from the start. The Highlanders made a concerted effort to shut down Diogu, triple-teaming the nation's second leading scorer most times he got the ball and holding him to just six points in the first half.
Diogu, who leads the nation in free throw attempts, didn't get to the line until 11 minutes remained in the second half and he committed four turnovers in the game.
“If you allow the zone to frustrate you then they accomplish what they want to," said Diogu, who got most of his 19 points after Riverside switched to a man-to-man defense midway through the second half. “You just have to stay aggressive."
ASU now takes a week off during final exams before facing Northwestern Dec. 20 in Tempe. The Devils spent the past week working on their defense and that effort paid off. This week's topic may be ball control after the Devils booted away 23 turnovers Sunday — the third time they have turned the ball over at least 20 times this season.
The Devils' point guards have not yet shown the ability to consistently handle pressure.
“Very careless,” Evans said in assessing his team's struggles Sunday. “That's way too many turnovers. We need to have about 12, 13 turnovers a game to be successful.”