ARIZONA STATE BASKETBALL

No. 4 Arizona overcomes early 13-point deficit in blowout win over ASU

Feb 7, 2022, 10:22 PM | Updated: Feb 8, 2022, 10:54 am

TEMPE — The No. 4 Arizona Wildcats proved why they are ranked a top-five team in the country on Monday night at Desert Financial Arena.

In what was a rescheduled postponed matchup, the Wildcats blew out the Arizona State Sun Devils 91-79 to sweep ASU on the season.

Bobby Hurley and Co. were coming off of a triple overtime win over then-No. 3 UCLA (now No. 12) on Saturday night, less than 48 hours prior to Monday night’s tip.

The Sun Devils were also on a three-game streak in which they had not let their opponents shoot 40%, including holding the Wildcats to 32.2% in the two teams’ matchup in Tucson last week.

“We’ve had success this year just overall when we’ve defended at a high level,” Hurley said postgame. “You can’t let them shoot 57% and really expect to have a chance. I think the reason we had a chance in Tucson was how we defended. We didn’t guard the way we needed to tonight.”

ASU was also able to hold UCLA star guard Johnny Juzang to 36.4% shooting, so there was some reason for optimism with Arizona forward Azuolas Tubelis in coming in fresh off his Pac-12 Player of the Week honors.

He only played 22 minutes in the last matchup coming off of an ankle injury, but finished Monday night with a game-high 19 points and 11 rebounds on 7-of-12 shooting (58.3%).

“They go with those high-lows, they’re really good with finding a way to duck in, just wide bodies,” Hurley said. “Tubelis is really looking a lot better than our first matchup, he’s really moving better.

“They just have multiple ways that they can beat you. It’s rare that a team has that quality of an inside game in the half court offense, yet be very lethal in the open court too in transition with the athleticism of their wings.”

Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, the Wildcats were lights out from the field, going 57% on 34-of-60 shooting and a respectable 37% from three (7-for-19).

Arizona State looked to have picked up right where it left off on Saturday night, opening the game on a 16-3 run just over four minutes in, including hitting three straight threes to jump out to a 9-0 lead.

But Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd’s side completely took over from that point on, outscoring ASU 81-42 to take as much as a 26-point lead en route to the blowout victory. The Sun Devils rattled off a 7-0 run in the final minute of the ballgame to bring the losing margin to just 12.

Most of those points came via dunks or easy looks, as the Wildcats outscored the Sun Devils 52-28 in the paint due to the overwhelming size advantage UA has. Arizona also outrebounded ASU 48-26.

“I credit Arizona, they were really good tonight,” Hurley said. “We kinda played the first seven minutes pretty well. … And after that we were kind of overmatched in a lot of ways.

“Things that we tried to avoid: points in the paint — we’ve been good lately in that department. It wasn’t only their size in the frontcourt. They had some runouts and the transition game. You could see how quickly they could put points on the board.”

With the win, the Wildcats improve to 20-2 on the season and 10-1 in conference play to remain atop the Pac-12. Arizona is also the first Pac-12 team to reach 20 overall victories and reach double-digits in the conference W column.

Meanwhile, ASU falls to 7-14 on the season and 3-8 in Pac-12 play as the Sun Devils end a gauntlet that featured five straight games against top-20 ranked opponents.

“I think we can play any team in the country,” Sun Devils graduate student forward Kimani Lawrence said postgame. As you see, we played all these teams tough. Unfortunately we didn’t win the games we wanted to win.”

“We have a lot of season left,” he added. “We have some games that we can win. We’re finding ourselves as a team. We still have a chance to make something happen with the season. So I just need to reiterate that to the guys and not let them get too down about this game.”

UP NEXT

Arizona State heads up to the Pacific Northwest to take on both Washington schools, which will start on Thursday with a 9 p.m. tip-off against the Huskies on ESPN 620 AM / 98.7 FM HD-2.

No. 4 Arizona will do just the same, but the Wildcats will tip off against the Cougars on Thursday at 7 p.m.

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