The 5: Best recent ASU, UA individual performances in Pac-12 Tournament
The week of the Pac-12 Tournament, and postseason college basketball as a whole, is the time of the year when players can truly shine and cement their legacy at a school.
The Arizona State Sun Devils and Arizona Wildcats have had their fair share of performances that have done so in the conference tournament.
Here are a few of the best from the past couple of years.
Solomon Hill vs. UCLA, March 8, 2012
Hill is the case example Sean Miller always uses to show the improvement possible for four-year players, and Hill had one of the better games of his Wildcat career in his junior year against the Bruins.
He scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a surprisingly close 66-58 quarterfinals win.
Arizona, however, would come up short in the finals of the tournament, a 53-51 loss to Colorado.
It cost them an NCAA Tournament bid, the second time in three years a Miller team failed to make the tournament. He has not missed the tournament since.
Jahii Carson vs. Stanford, March 13, 2013
One of the most heavily criticized players for Arizona State in the past decade, it’s easy to forget that 5-foot-10 point guard Jahii Carson had his moments, including 34 points in his freshman season against Stanford in an overtime win.
Carson, incredibly, posted that total by shooting 14-of-22 and only going to the free-throw line three times. While he would miss the potential game-winning 3-pointer at the end of regulation, Carson’s layup put ASU up 3 in overtime to help them advance.
His 34-point effort missed the all-time freshman school record at that time by one point.
The Sun Devils would lose in the next round, and despite a record of 21-12, they did not make the tournament.
Brandon Ashley vs. UCLA, March 13, 2015
Seen in that same vein as Hill, Ashley was the consistent presence and glue guy that kept the Wildcats together during their most successful run in school history, a two-year stretch in which they won 67 games.
In his final season as a junior, Ashley was the MVP of the 2015 Pac-12 Tournament, and he had 24 points and seven rebounds on 11 shots against UCLA in the semifinals.
The Wildcats would meet an up-start Oregon team in the finals, led by 2015 Pac-12 Player of the Year Joe Young. The future core pieces of Oregon’s 2016 and 2017 teams like Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell and Elgin Cook, however, were not quite ready for a team like the Wildcats and were thoroughly dismantled 80-52.
Ashley had 20 in that game, cementing his MVP status of the tournament.
In Bobby Hurley’s second year in charge of the Sun Devils, the identity he wanted to create for his program ran through the fire of the undersized and hard-working Oleka.
As seniors often do in conference tournaments, Oleka had the best game of his career in a 98-88 overtime win for ASU, scoring a career-high 27 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Of those 13, six were on the offensive glass.
The story of the game wasn’t Oleka, though. ASU had a 14-point lead at one point but it was still able to show composure in OT for the victory.
The run would soon be halted, as that aforementioned Ducks team was now at the peak of its powers, thumping the Sun Devils 80-57 in the quarterfinals.
In what was one of the best years for Pac-12 college basketball in some time, Lonzo Ball’s UCLA team met Arizona for a third time and couldn’t follow a 77-72 home win on Feb. 25 with a victory in the conference tournament.
A whole lot of the 86-75 semifinal win for the Wildcats had to do with the Bruins having absolutely no answer for Lauri Markkanen. Miller and his team appeared to know that was the case, as Markkanen attempted 22 shots while no one else on the team would break double digits. The terrific Finnish freshman had 29 points in the game while Ball was ineffective, scoring eight points on seven shots.
That led to another highly anticipated matchup against that earlier referenced Oregon team in the final. Two of the top-seven teams in the country played a terrific game, with Arizona’s defense and 23 points from Allonzo Trier being enough for Miller to get his second Pac-12 Tournament win in three years.