Arizona State 84, Memphis 71
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—Ike Diogu was Arizona State’s freshman sensation all season. He led the way again in the NCAA tournament.
The Pac-10 freshman of the year scored 22 points, including 10 in a key second-half run, and Arizona State beat Memphis 84-71 Thursday night in the first round of the West Regional.
Diogu, who led Arizona State in scoring this season, did it all against Memphis. He shot 9-of-11 from the floor with a variety of post moves and even stepped out to hit a pair of 3-pointers in a 13-0 second-half run that opened up a 10-point lead for the Sun Devils.
“I’m not sure if they really thought I could shoot out there,” said Diogu, who went 6-of-6 in the second half before fouling out with just over a minute left.
“Coach (Rob) Evans, when I’m open, has full confidence in me.”
Diogu’s two-handed dunk with 2:41 left made it 70-59, squelching any hopes of a late Memphis rally and capping the Sun Devils’ victory in their first NCAA tournament since 1995.
Tenth-seeded Arizona State (20-11) moves on to Saturday’s second round against No. 2 seed Kansas, which beat Utah State 64-61.
The win also exorcised an Oklahoma City demon for Sun Devils coach Evans.
Evans was the coach at Mississippi in 1998 when the Rebels came to Oklahoma City for the NCAA tournament but were upset by Valparaiso in the first round on Bryce Drew’s famous buzzer beater.
“It’s tremendous for our school, tremendous for our program,” Evans said. “It’s gratifying for me but more importantly, it signifies where our program is at and where it’s going.”
Senior Tommy Smith appreciates how much Diogu has meant to the Sun Devils.
“When we first got here and weren’t winning games, Coach told that us players were on the way who could help,” Smith said. “Obviously the players we got helped out tremendously.”
Shawn Redhage added 18 points and Curtis Millage had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Arizona State. The Sun Devils shot 52 percent from the floor, 70 percent in the second half.
Chris Massie scored 20 points and had 13 rebounds for seventh-seeded Memphis (23-7), which came in with high hopes in its first tournament appearance since 1996.
That was also the last time Memphis coach John Calipari was in the tournament. He took Massachusetts to the Final Four before bolting to the NBA for three seasons.
The Tigers won the National Invitational tournament last year when they thought they were snubbed by the NCAA.
Back in the NCAA, Memphis had little go its way Thursday night, shooting just 36 percent from the floor and 7-of-28 on 3-pointers.
“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.”
The teams were tied or changed leads 15 times in a fast-paced first half before Memphis took a 33-32 lead into halftime.
Diogu took over in the second.
His two free throws started the Sun Devils’ game-changing run. He then hit a 3-pointer from the left side of the arc and Redhage followed with another.
Diogu, who hit only seven 3-pointers all season, then made one again from almost the same spot a minute later. He followed that with a nifty up-and-under move past a defender for a layup that made it 45-35 with 15:27 left.
“He plays in control, smart,” said Tigers center Earl Barron, who could do little to stop Diogu. “He doesn’t try to do anything that he knows he can’t do.”
“I think he kind of surprised everybody when he started shooting 3s,” Memphis’ Anthony Rice said.
Memphis cut it to 50-45 on Rice’s 3-pointer but after a timeout, Diogu hit another layup, Smith hit a short jumper and Memphis never threatened the lead again.