Arizona State fans concerned about who would replace Curtis Millage's scoring found out Saturday afternoon that junior college transfer Steve Moore can handle that role quite nicely.
Moore scored 26 points in an outstanding debut as the Sun Devils subdued pesky Arkansas-Little Rock, 89-72, at Wells Fargo Arena.
While sophomore center Ike Diogu let his new teammates get their feet wet in the early going, Moore scored eight points in the first five minutes, two of his three baskets on 3-pointers. He had 10 points as the Sun Devils took a 40-39 lead at halftime.
Moore, who has a shooter's touch on foul shots, made all eight of his attempts during a 16-point second half in which ASU turned up the defensive pressure to pull away.
"I was really proud of Steve Moore," ASU coach Rob Evans said.
Two foul shots by Moore gave ASU its first double-digit lead, 55-45, with 15:33 to go. His four foul shots in the final 3 1/2 minutes kept Arkansas-Little Rock at bay after it had cut a 16-point deficit to 12.
"There are a lot more things to come," from Moore, Diogu said. "Steve is a tremendous shooter."
Having played two years of JC ball, Moore is more experienced than the freshman group that is being counted on this year.
Still, neither Millage nor Jamal Hill, both JC transfers, had a Division I debut like Moore.
"I have a lot of confidence in him. He's a little different from the other juco guys," said Evans, alluding to Moore's playing on championship teams in high school in California. "I fully expected him to come out relaxed."
Moore, who has a bright smile and on-court enthusiasm that should make him a crowd favorite, said he indeed was relaxed. That's because he had called his mother earlier in the day.
"She knew I was nervous. She gave me a prayer," Moore said. "After that I knew everything would be all right."
ASU got 18 points from the freshman, as well as from sophomore newcomer Allen Morill.
But the win was secured by Diogu.
In the first 4 minutes, 40 seconds, the only shot Diogu attempted was off an offensive rebound. It wasn't until the 13:06 mark that he scored on a offensive move, a three-pointer. Little Rock was playing a tough collapsing zone.
"You have to be patient," said Diogu, who made 13-of-14 foul shots to finish with 24 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and had a career-high five blocked shots. "I just let it come to me. Steve hit some big shots and it opened up everything."
ASU, however, went to its meal ticket on the first possession of the second half as things shifted to the winning mode. Diogu converted a free throw and Moore followed with a 3-pointer to quickly pad the lead to five points. Little Rock was never closer than three points (44-41) the rest of the way.
"Defensively, we got better as the game went on," Evans said. ASU out-rebounded Arkansas-Little Rock 25-13 in the second half.
ASU junior point guard Jason Braxton had 10 points and six assists. He also harassed Little Rock guard Nick Zachery (25 points) into only 1-of-8 shooting behind the arc in the second half. Freshman guard Tron Smith struggled to 1-for-8 shooting in his ASU debut, but senior Jamal Hill picked him up with 11 points in 22 minutes.