Once again, the Arizona Wildcats came to Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz., as heavy favorites over Arizona State.
Once again, they were defeated.
Bo Barnes’ 18 points and oh-so-clutch 3-pointer led the Sun Devils to an 81-78 victory over No. 6 Arizona on Saturday afternoon. Savon Goodman and Tra Holder followed closely behind Barnes, scoring 15 apiece.
ASU (12-11, 4-6) performed well in many facets where they haven’t shown success this season. The Sun Devils spread the floor. They attacked the basket. Holder was confident: doling out eight assists in his 36 total minutes. They hit 17-of-23 free throws.
But oh, that 3-pointer. That was a moment.
“Bo had such an iron-clad will today,” said head coach Herb Sendek. “His determination was really incredible.
“From our view, it looked like he was on target. Until it went through the net, obviously, we held our breath. It was a huge shot.”
It came at a crucial time for the Sun Devils; a deep, arcing shot that made the net slap back on itself. There was just under a minute left to play, and though ASU had held a lead through the entire second period, the Wildcats had crept within four.
“It felt pretty good,” Barnes grinned, a little sheepishly. “I saw the shot clock running down, so I was just trying to get it up there.”
Goodman said he and the rest of the team knew Barnes could hit that shot — they’d seen him do it in practice and over the summer.
After Barnes’ harpoon to seal the game, Arizona State students in attendance at the game began a mass exodus toward the court as the final seconds ticked down — somewhat excruciatingly.
The time stoppage was a huge part of the game Saturday, as 45 total fouls were called throughout. Both teams threw themselves all over the court after loose balls and steals that drew the whistle, and both crashed the boards hard in a very physical game.
Arizona State, however, kept up with the Wildcats in rebounding with 34 total to the visitor’s 37. Defensively, the Devils owned the glass 25-19.
“If you’re going to compete with Arizona, you’re going to have to find a way to rebound with them,” said Sendek. “There’s no science to it. You’re going to have to put a body on someone and go get the ball.”
The Sun Devils got hot with a 9-0 scoring run in the first half, embellished with a dunk by Goodman. They took a 41-34 lead into the half, shooting 53.3 percent against one of the nation’s top defensive teams.
Goodman then scored the first eight points of the second half and was complemented by Barnes’ hot hands as time trickled down to seal the win. The Sun Devils’ 81 points were just one away from tying the season high allowed by Arizona.
Arizona State led Arizona in the paint for most of the game, which was a huge factor in the Devils’ continued hold on the lead. The battle down low finished in favor of the ‘Cats, however, 40-36.
Arizona’s T.J. McConnell attempted to make up for much of his team’s mishaps. He heated up in the second period and ultimately was 11-of-19 with 25 points and four assists.
ASU’s Holder attacked the basket repeatedly and was integral in the Sun Devils’ improved spacing. His 15 points marked the fourth time in six games the point guard has hit double-figures.
Attendance was stellar by fans of both teams: A total of 10,876 people showed up and vocally battled throughout the game.
Arizona did not have a single scorer in double-digits to end the first half.
Kaleb Tarczewski may as well have exchanged his hands for rocks, as he missed a dunk and owed at least two players assists for fumbles, bumbles and missed opportunities. He was just 1-of-6 from the field, though he did pull down nine rebounds.
A few Sun Devils were banged up a bit in the win. Shaquielle McKissic left the game with cramping in his leg, and Jonathan Gilling suffered a shoulder sprain, according to Sendek.
STATS OF THE GAME
The Arizona Wildcats have not won in Wells Fargo Arena since Jan. 19, 2013.
ASU led for 27:42. Arizona led for 7:52. The game was tied a total of 4:26.
Members of the ASU football team showed up to support their hardwood colleagues — and to be a part of the Curtain of Distraction.
— DieHardSunDevil42 (@DiehardDevil42) February 7, 2015
HE SAID IT
“I would like thank our fans, and especially our students. They were incredible. I don’t have a final count, but that has to be the largest student attendance we have ever had. Their energy in the building certainly contributed to our guys’ ability to play as hard and as tough as they did. I would like to say thank you Sun Devil nation.” — Sendek on the 942 Crew.
Both teams do not play again until Friday. ASU plays at Washington State (10-12, 4-6 Pac-12), while Arizona will kick off a road meeting with Washington (14-8, 3-7 Pac-12) earlier in the evening.