LOS ANGELES - Is sophomore center Ike Diogu starting to feel the pressure of having to carry too much of the load for the Arizona State men’s basketball team to be successful?
Diogu is shooting only 37.7 percent from the floor in Pac-10 games after going just 3-of-14 in Thursday’s 66-58 loss to UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
Diogu dismissed the shooting woes as "two bad games" in which he "missed shots I normally make."
Coach Rob Evans also, at first, dismissed the query, saying Diogu was hitting all those shots he’s now missing in the non-conference schedule.
Still, there’s no question Diogu’s demeanor on the court has changed through ASU’s (6-7, 0-4 Pac-10) current five-game losing streak.
In the second half the California game, he yelled at roommate Serge Angounou during and right after a possession in which Angounou failed to pass him the ball in the low block.
He demonstrably protested the final ruling that no foul would be called on the final play of the one-point loss to Stanford.
California coach Ben Braun said he could see the frustration on Diogu’s face during the traditional postgame handshake.
Diogu is still facing the same double-teams he did last year, but in the first four league games he also played against taller players who are well coached.
Braun somewhat unexpectedly put 6-foot-10 Amit Tamir, one of the slowest centers in the Pac-10, on Diogu and Diogu did not have a good first half, though he came alive for 21 points in the final 20 minutes.
Stanford, Arizona and UCLA all used defenders taller than the 6-foot-8 Diogu.
Bruins coach Ben Howland used a couple of possessions to use his tall centers on him to see if they could draw a foul, which one did, contributing to Diogu fouling out with 4 1 /2 minutes left in the game.
Diogu is shooting 51.2 percent from the floor, down from 60.8 percent last year. Last season, Diogu made 63.8 percent of his shots against league competition.
"He may feel like he has to make that shot," Evans said on second thought, alluding to a lack of offensive rebounding from teammates. "There’s probably a little more pressure on that shot."
Diogu is also shooting more from the outside. He attempted 14 3-pointers all last year and has already tried 20 this season.
The inability of his teammates to consistently get him the ball in the post has drawn him outside to get the ball, then dribble toward the basket to shoot a short jumper.
"It’s no big deal," Diogu said of his shooting. "I just have concentrate a little
harder. I have to finish (the shots) the next time."
Next time is tonight against sky-high USC (8-6, 3-2), which is coming off a 99-90 upset of seventhranked Arizona.
Evans will again tinker with his lineup in an attempt to find consistent help for Diogu.
With Allen Morill nursing an ankle injury, Diogu may have two different frontcourt partners for the game.
Freshman forward Keith Wooden is expected to start and Evans said freshman forward Chris Low is likely to log significant minutes.
As he did Thursday, Evans will play the freshmen in the first half "to see how they’re doing." If playing well, he’ll stick with them. If not, senior Justin Allen would get the call. Evans is looking for rebounders.
BONUS SHOTS: Lack of conditioning and defensive problems relegated Angounou to just four minutes in the second half against UCLA, Evans said. . . .
ASU assistants Tony Benford and Russ Pennell left after the morning practice on recruiting trips.
ASU at USC
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Los Angeles Sports Arena
TV: Fox Sports Net Arizona
Radio: ESPN (860 AM)
Records: Arizona State 6-7, 0-4 Pac-10; USC 8-6, 3-2