OKLAHOMA CITY (TICKER) —Ike Diogu gave John Calipari another reason to be upset.
Diogu keyed an early second-half run and helped make Calipari’s return to the NCAA Tournament a short stay as 10th-seeded Arizona State posted a 84-71 victory over seventh seed Memphis in a West Region first-round game.
The Pac-10 Conference Freshman of the Year, Diogu scored six points in the first half before exploding for 10 in less than five minutes to fuel a 13-0 run to start the second half, giving the Sun Devils a double-digit lead.
Diogu finished with 22 points and Shawn Redhage added 18 for Arizona State (20-11), which was making its first tournament appearance since 1995. The Sun Devils will meet Kansas in the second round on Saturday.
“It’s tremendous for our school, tremendous for our program,” Arizona State coach Rob Evans said. “It’s gratifying for me but more importantly, it signifies where our program is at and where it’s going.”
With the Sun Devils’ win, the Pac-10 improved to 4-0 on the first day of the tournament. California, Stanford and Arizona won earlier in the day.
It also was a return to the tournament for Calipari, who is in his third season as Memphis coach. He was last in the tournament in 1996 when he led Massachusetts to the Final Four.
Despite his absence from the field, Calipari did not hesitate to question the selection committee, thinking his club deserved better than a No. 7 seed.
“I’m disappointed but I’ll be honest with you, they played well,” Calipari said. “When they shoot 70 percent in the second half, it’s going to be a hard game to win.”
Chris Massie had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Tigers (23-7), who could not build on their tournament experience from a season ago when they won the National Invitation Tournament.
A jumper by Antonio Burks 33 seconds into the second half gave the Tigers a 35-32 lead. But the 6-8 Diogu began to take over the game, doing most of his damage from outside.
Diogu started the decisive burst with two foul shots with 19:02 to play - the Sun Devils’ first trip to the line in the game - and drilled a pair of 3-pointers around a shot from beyond the arc by Redhage. Diogu capped the burst with a reverse layup, providing the Sun Devils with a 45-35 advantage with 15:36 remaining.
“I’m not sure if they really thought I could shoot out there,” Diogu said. “Coach (Rob) Evans, when I’m open, has full confidence in me.”
“I think he kind of surprised everybody when he started shooting threes,” Tigers guard Anthony Rice said.
The Sun Devils’ leading scorer at more than 19 points per game, Diogu shined with his parents in attendance as he made all six of his shots from the field in the second half and finished 9-of-11 from the floor. He also grabbed five rebounds and was a defensive presence before fouling out in the waning moments.
Diogu is from the Dallas are and his parents made the drive to Oklahoma City.
Senior guard Curtis Millage added 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Sun Devils, who shot a blistering 70 percent (16-of-23) in the second half to finish at 52.5 percent (31-of-59) overall.
While the Sun Devils were running their offense efficiently, they also seemed to confuse the Tigers with a 2-3 zone defense.
Memphis was out if its rhythm offensively and forced many shots as it went just 7-of-28 from 3-point range. The Tigers shot 36 percent (25-of-69) and held a 42-37 edge on the boards.
The Sun Devils opened a 50-39 lead with just over 13 minutes remaining before the Tigers scored the next six points on a three-point play by Earl Barron and Rice’s 3-pointer.
But the Sun Devils answered with an 11-4 run, capped by Redhage’s layup for a 61-49 advantage with 6:15 to play. Arizona State was never threatened the rest of the way, although Memphis did get as close as six points with just under a minute left.
It was close throughout the first half with neither team leading by more than four points. Massie had 10 points and eight rebounds in the half to help the Tigers grab a 33-32 edge.