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No. 17 Arizona heads to Tempe looking to keep Hurley winless in rivalry

Arizona coach Sean Miller watches his team play Southern California during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz. (Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star via AP)

Sean Miller’s No. 17 Arizona Wildcats head to Tempe for Thursday’s rivalry game against No. 25 Arizona State in a strange spot.

After winning seven straight in Pac-12 play, they dropped two in a row, including a rough 82-74 home loss to UCLA, which was only Arizona’s second loss at McKale Center in over two years.

On the other side, the Sun Devils are coming off their first sweep of opponents during a week of Pac-12 play this season.

With that said, the team is coming off what Miller called “one of our best overall performances,” an 81-67 win over USC.

All signs point toward another classic in the rivalry following the Wildcats’ close win in Tucson on Dec. 30, and one Tempe is ready for, as they’ve sold out the game at Wells Fargo Arena.

Despite all these factors, Miller doesn’t see much of a difference between the two meetings.

“They were a good team the first time and I think they’re equally good now,” he said Monday.

The focus remains the same on what ASU is best at.

“Recognize how lethal they are and how quickly they can score points by not just one or two players but a number of them who utilize the 3-point shot,” Miller said.

“They also combine that with getting to the foul line, Tra Holder in particular,” he said.

Holder indeed was one of the keys to the last game and will be in this one. For a Sun Devil team that struggled to get going offensively, Holder got to the line 16 times and hit 15 of them, a big part of his 31 points on the night.

With that said, it has been nearly a month and a half since that game, and Miller’s teams have often improved defensively in the late stages of conference play.

This, though, is not a typical Miller team, as he has noted many times this season.

“Those are two really problematic areas for us,” Miller said.

The two teams will face off at 7 p.m. on Thursday. You can listen live to the game on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station, and also follow coverage of the big matchup throughout the day.

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