ASU seeks revenge, Arizona at guard in middle of rivalry back-to-back

Jan 22, 2021, 9:32 AM
Head coaches Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats and Bobby Hurley of the Arizona State Sun Devils g...
Head coaches Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats and Bobby Hurley of the Arizona State Sun Devils greet each other before the NCAAB game at Desert Financial Arena on January 21, 2021 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Rarely do two Pac-12 teams face each other one game after the other.

Even less often are those two teams rivals.

A scheduling change moved the Arizona State Sun Devils’ and Arizona Wildcats’ second scheduled game of the year from the end of the regular season to four days after their first meeting. Following a buzzer-beating win for Arizona on Thursday night in Tempe, it’s hard to imagine that their Monday rematch in Tucson could produce more fireworks.

The anticipation heading into it, however, couldn’t be higher, especially for the Sun Devils.

“It’s disappointing, but at the same time we play on Monday, so we get revenge on Monday,” Arizona State freshman Josh Christopher said Thursday after his team fell 84-82. “We just got to put what’s in the past in the past. That clock already hit zero-zero-zero. We got to just lock back in, watch film, then play on Monday.

“Especially after how it went today, yeah, I’m looking forward it … just got to get our payback.”

Sun Devils head coach Bobby Hurley told his players after the game they did enough to win, and he seconded that in his postgame interview with reporters.

Arizona State (4-7, 1-4 Pac-12) overcame 12 first-half turnovers and found a rhythm in the second half. The Sun Devils held a seven-point lead with less than five minutes to play and a five-point lead under the 2:00 mark.

“I thought we did a fairly good job defensively all things considered,” Hurley said. “We’re going to give up some threes … We had to try to support the paint and support our frontcourt in the lane.

“But we rebounded well, we had good paint coverage. The way Arizona does rebound, thought we did a great job of hanging in there in the paint.”

Hurley’s team’s strategy — walling off the interior and accepting that Arizona would hit some threes — eventually began paying off against the bigger Wildcats.

Surely that success seeped into Hurley’s mind, adding to his frustration after point guard Remy Martin did not draw a foul call on a potential game-winning drive.

Arizona went the other way after the no-call, and Wildcats point guard James Akinjo found — intentionally or not — freshman big Azuolas Tubelis under the basket for the game-winning layup. Akinjo said it was a pass and not a shot, but the game book ruled it a missed Akinjo three and putback by Tubelis.

In any case, ASU had enough success to keep most of its gameplan for another shot at Arizona on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats (11-3, 5-3 Pac-12) are on notice that maybe they stole one, correct no-call on Martin’s drive or not.

“Our defense is not as good as our offense,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “We’re hard at work to make it better, it has to get better, but sometimes you just have to figure out a way to get a win almost in spite of our defense.

“That is really the story of tonight’s game. ASU had their way with us, especially in the second half. Hopefully, we can be better when we play Monday.”

Both teams on Thursday night allowed better than 46% shooting overall and 52% shooting from deep. Each team hit 11 three-pointers.

The rebounding differential, 35-33, was also tight. So it wasn’t surprising that the scoring evened out until the final second.

For the Sun Devils, Monday probably couldn’t come soon enough. They want to end a five-game losing streak that’s only been buoyed by canceled games due to coronavirus issues.

For the Wildcats, finding a sense of urgency in practices over the weekend is the hope.

“You win, it’s a thrilling feeling,” Miller said of the rivalry. “You lose, it’s a terrible feeling, and that’s what we have to guard against because, unlike other games in this series, the next game we play is ASU. It’s going to be on us pretty quick on Monday. There’s a number of things we have to be better at when we play them on Monday.

“We’re all part of something that’s bigger than our own programs,” Miller added. “I think it’s a decision made by the Pac-12 office that makes a lot of sense, especially in ASU’s case to give them that last week to recapture some games that they’ve lost would be very, very big for them. We want the most teams in our conference to get into postseason play, and anything that we can do in terms of scheduling and cooperating to make that happen, we’ll do it.”

Arizona State Basketball

Arizona State guard Shannon Evans II (11) celebrates with the cheering crowd after a making basket ...
Wills Rice

ESPN’s Gasaway: ASU, Arizona’s best basketball transfers wins

ESPN’s John Gasaway took a stab at what he thought to be the best transfers in and out of each basketball program in Pac-12 history.
1 day ago
Pac-12 logo on the field during the NCAAF game at Sun Devil Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Tempe, ...
Associated Press

Pac-12 Conference suffers 36% decrease in revenue in 2020-21

The Pac-12 suffered a 36% decrease in revenue for the 2020-21 fiscal year due to pandemic-related cancellations in football and basketball.
8 days ago
Frankie Collins #10 of the Michigan Wolverines drives to the basket against Fatts Russell #4 of the...
Arizona Sports

Arizona State lands Michigan transfer, former 4-star recruit Frankie Collins

Point guard Frankie Collins will transfer to Arizona State after playing one season at Michigan, he announced on Twitter.
24 days ago
Jay Heath #5 of the Arizona State Sun Devils reacts after scoring a three pointer during the second...
Arizona Sports

Former Sun Devil G Jay Heath transfers to Georgetown

ASU basketball's second-leading scorer from last season, Jay Heath, is transferring to Georgetown, the school announced Saturday morning.
28 days ago
NCAA president Mark Emmert listens during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee h...
Associated Press

NCAA President Mark Emmert to step down no later than 2023

NCAA Board of Governors Chairman John DeGioia announced the move Tuesday and said it was by mutual agreement.
1 month ago
Arizona State Sun Devils fans and cheerleaders raise their arms during the team's game against the ...
Arizona Sports

ASU and SMU basketball reschedule home-and-home series

Arizona State and Southern Methodist basketball rescheduled a home-and-home series with the first game next season in Dallas.
1 month ago
ASU seeks revenge, Arizona at guard in middle of rivalry back-to-back