The last two times the Sun Devils welcomed the Wildcats to Tempe, they sent Sean Miller’s team home empty-handed. That wasn’t the case on Sunday, but Arizona State certainly didn’t go down quietly.
The Devils opened Pac-12 play with their first loss in over three weeks, falling to Arizona by a final of 94-82 in front of 8,044 – including 22-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps – at Wells Fargo Arena. Tra Holder led all scorers with 24 points, while Gabe York paced U of A with 22.
Prior to today’s contest, ASU had won four straight, and seven of eight – with the lone loss coming in Lexington against John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats. They’re now 10-4 on the year.
Much like that game against Kentucky, this one slipped away from the Sun Devils in the second half. In fact, things looked good early on, as Savon Goodman returned after missing four games due to personal reasons and helped trigger an early 14-5 run that put the Sun Devils up 28-19 in the first half. The Wildcats responded with a 14-0 run of their own though, and carried a 41-35 lead into halftime.
That’s when the technical fouls began.
First up was U of A center Kaleb Tarczewski, who was called for his second foul with 16:36 remaining in the game, argued and was T’ed up at midcourt. Willie Atwood hit both free throws for ASU, then Eric Jacobsen got inside for a bucket on the ensuing possession to pull the Sun Devils to within five (48-43) again.
York took over just moments later, burying back-to-back threes from well beyond the arc to stretch the Wildcats’ lead back to double digits. ASU eventually saw the deficit widen to 76-60, but began to rally when Kodi Justice hit a three, drew a foul in the process and drained the free throw to complete the four-point play.
Bobby Hurley’s squad ultimately trimmed the lead to 81-75, but just couldn’t get any closer. And things boiled over late in the rally, when a few close calls went against the Devils in the waning moments. Hurley himself picked up a technical foul with 1:14 left, then another just a few moments later – exiting to cheers from a fired up crowd.
-Goodman only managed two points, but his return after missing four consecutive games is a good sign for ASU going forward.
-Obinna Oleka continued to show progress, chipping in 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
-As a team, the Devils made all but three of the 19 free throws they attempted.
-Entering the game, ASU was outrebounding opponents by an average of 5.3 per game. It was U of A who came away with the advantage in that department today though, pulling down 37 boards to the Devils’ 30.
-Arizona State managed just 10 assists in the game, below their season average of 13.
STAT OF THE GAME
19: The number of free throws ASU attempted, compared to 36 by Arizona. The Devils ultimately made 84 percent of their attempts, while the Wildcats hit just 75 percent, but there was still an 11-point differential from the charity stripe when all was said and done. That proved costly.
HE SAID IT
“He fights for us. He wants us to play hard and he wishes he was out there on the court too so, you know, we try to get the fire from him because he really fights for us hard. We play for him hard and he just… he’s emotionally so into the game.” – Atwood, on the players’ reaction to Hurley’s ejection.
-Eight of the nine ASU players who saw action grabbed at least one rebound, and seven of them managed to score.
The Sun Devils continue their Pac-12 schedule with a pair of games in southern California this week. They’ll visit USC on Thursday, before squaring off with UCLA on Saturday.
The Trojans currently sit at 12-3 (1-1 in Pac-12 play), following an 87-85 loss to Washington on Sunday. Junior guard Katin Reinhardt leads USC in scoring, with 13.6 points per game this season.
ASU split with the Trojans last year, winning 64-59 on Feb. 22, then falling 67-64 in the Pac-12 Tournament.
The Sun Devils’ next home game will be Thursday, Jan. 14, when Washington State comes to town.
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