Arizona State has done it again.
The Sun Devils pulled off another home upset of a top-10 Arizona Wildcats team.
ASU came out with high intensity Saturday and built a small advantage right off the bat, but the No. 6 Wildcats came right back and took a lead of their own with just under 13 minutes left in the first half.
Arizona put together a seven-point lead in the first period, but the Sun Devils persevered, tying the game up with six and a half minutes remaining in the half and eventually taking a 41-34 advantage into the break.
The home team led for the entire second half and pulled off an upset — in nail-biting fashion — by a final of 81-78, handing UA its third loss of the season.
Each school had four players score in double-figures. ASU finished the game shooting exactly 50 percent from the field — including 46.7 percent from downtown — and improved to 12-11 (4-6 Pac-12), avoiding falling below .500 for what would have been the second time this season.
Arizona had a six-game winning streak snapped, but the school remains atop the Pac-12 with an 8-2 record (20-3 overall). The two programs finished their season series with one win apiece.
Here’s a look at Saturday afternoon’s thrilling game in Tempe, by the numbers:
After losing three straight to the Wildcats by an average of 18.3 points in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, Arizona State has won two of its last three meetings against its in-state rival, with each ASU win by a three-point margin; the lone loss came by 24 points on Jan. 4 in Tucson.
ASU improved to 3-4 under Herb Sendek against top-10 teams at home. The Devils last faced an elite team at Wells Fargo Arena when they hosted then-eighth-ranked Utah last month and lost 76-59. Sendek’s previous win over a top-10 program at home was the 69-66 double-overtime upset over Arizona last February.
Both teams had a full seven days off before they took the floor at Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday. After the Tempe nail-biter, the schools will each have five full days off before they play again: ASU takes on Washington State on the road next Friday night, while Arizona will tip off at Washington two hours earlier.
The Wildcats were out-rebounded in the first half, but ended up winning the battle 37-34. The final score marks Arizona’s first loss when winning the rebound battle this season; the school was 14-0 prior to Saturday’s loss. Kaleb Tarczewski pulled down a team-high nine boards, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was right behind with eight on the afternoon.
ASU point guard Tra Holder continues to be a force on offense. He scored 10 points in the first half Saturday and finished with 15, although he shot only 3-for-10 from the floor. The 6-foot-1 freshman has reached double-figures in scoring in four of his last six outings, and is averaging 10.7 points per game during that span; he came into the game with 5.6 PPG average on the season. Holder also contributed two rebounds and a game-high, career-high eight assists in the win.
When Bo Barnes made a layup with just over three minutes left in the first half, Arizona State went up 31-29, and the school would never relinquish the lead for the final 23 minutes and five seconds of the game. The closest the Wildcats got it to was two after that point, which happened on several occasions, but ASU held firm throughout the second half.
Wildcats point guard T.J. McConnell continued his recent streak of offensive proficiency with a game-high and season-high 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting. The senior has scored in double-figures in seven of his last 11 games, including four of the last six. The 6-foot-1 guard came into Saturday’s game averaging 9.0 points per contest, but he has poured in 12.5 per contest since Dec. 23. McConnell made 3-of-4 three pointers en route to his 25 points, and he also contributed five rebounds and a team-high four assists.
ASU’s bench contributed a whopping 26 points to the team’s final tally, while Gabe York was the sole provider of all eight of the Wildcats’ points off the pine. Barnes led the Sun Devils reserves with a career-high 18 points, making two three-pointers and all eight of his free throws. The senior forward’s closely-guarded, straightaway three with 55 seconds left in the game essentially sealed the victory for the Sun Devils.
The contributions of Savon Goodman and Gerry Blakes cannot be ignored, as the two starters chipped in a combined 29 points. Goodman shot 7-for-9 from the field — albeit just 1-for-5 from the foul line — for 15 points, also adding a block and a team-high nine rebounds. Blakes made five out of 12 shots — including 2-of-4 from three-point land — for 14 points. The junior guard also tallied three rebounds, two steals and an assist in the victory.
ASU took double the number of free throws the Wildcats attempted, and the home team made 78.6 percent of those tries, led by Barnes (8-for-8) and Holder (8-for-9). By contrast, Arizona made just 8-of-14 (57.1 percent) attempts from the charity stripe. UA normally isn’t a great free-throw shooting team, but the ASU student section’s “Curtain of Distraction” was certainly a factor in the second half.
— Sun Devil Athletics (@TheSunDevils) February 7, 2015
ASU came one point away from tying the most allowed by the Arizona defense this season. Stanford scored 82 on the Wildcats on Jan. 22, but lost the game by seven. The Cardinal was the only team to score more than 70 against Arizona prior to ASU’s offensive outburst Saturday.