And here… We… Go… PAC-12 basketball is alive and kicking in the
desert as the Arizona State Sun Devils visited Tucson and the Arizona
Wildcats Saturday (today). A few other teams kicked off conference play
earlier this week and with the resounding 68-51 win the Wildcats are at
the top of the new expanded conference.
The game started off pretty sloppy for both teams as they traded
turnovers, missed shots, and bad fouls early. Early foul trouble plagued
the Sun Devils as they lost forward Kyle Cain two minutes in after picking
up two quick fouls. With Cain out Solomon Hill began to take charge
grabbing three early rebounds starting the break and finishing it with a
pass to Kyle Fogg for three.
Through the first 10 minutes of action the Arizona led 11-7 with the
teams combining for 13 turnovers (over one per minute) and 10-31
shooting. A 17-2 Arizona run highlighted by a freshman-to-freshman
alley-oop that brought the crowd to their feet and created the gap that
the Sun Devils could never close.
The first half guard play was night and day depending on what team you
Keala King and Trent Lockett combined 11 points and 8 turnovers in the
first half that saw the Sun Devils fall behind 34-20 at the break. All
throughout the first half it seemed like the Sun Devils were playing tight
and nervous. A lot of the turnovers were unforced and could be chalked
up to bad decision-making or execution. The first half of this game was
a microcosm of what the Sun Devils season has been and will be, they
are just not as talented as the opposition.
The Wildcats enjoyed those turnovers, feasting off of them for 17 points.
This is not a team you want to turn the ball over against. The Wildcats
pushed the ball, played energetic defense and knocked down threes on
the way to their impressive 14-point lead at the break. Sean Miller’s team
executed the game plan as well as they have in a first half all season.
The second half continued the momentum created in the last few
minutes of the first. The Wildcats caused back-to-back turnovers leading
to more highlight reel dunks by Jesse Perry (16 points 7 rebounds 3
assists) and Nick Johnson (14 points). After abusing the rim on the
break, it was back to business outside the three-point line. As the
commentators said, “it is like shooting practice for the Wildcats right
now.” The barrage of threes ballooned the lead to 24 points in the blink
of an eye.
Throughout the rest of the second half the Wildcats paced themselves
with the Sun Devils keeping the lead over 20 points for the rest of the
Hill (11 points 11 rebounds and 3 assists) was impressive running the
offense in large chunks of the game from the top of the key in a point-
forward fashion. He will be the key to the season for the Wildcats as
arguably their best player, but definitely their most seasoned. The young
guns are going to make mistakes and make plays for this team as they
continue to improve.
Going forward in conference play, the Sun Devils are going to struggle
unless they get more out of their star guard Lockett (8 points 5 rebounds
2-8 FG). He has the ability to fill it up from the field, but he was far too
passive in the first half and far too predictable in the second. He stepped
up late after only having three points through 30+ minutes.
This victory put Arizona at the top of the Pac-12 standings after one
game. It is a long season with many more talented teams to come, but
the confidence is starting to show for the Wildcats and they are playing
their best basketball of the season over their past three games.
During non-conference play, the Wildcats played in some tough road
environments that will have them prepared to head out to UCLA and USC
next week. The early-season conference schedule favors this team
starting strong with the Oregon schools visiting Tucson followed by trips
to newcomers Utah and Colorado. This may result in an early 5-0 start in
an unpredictable and untalented conference.
Next conference Game at UCLA: The Bruins have been as enigmatic as
they come this season and are hard to feel out. They have a force in the
paint in Joshua Smith for Jesse Perry to contend with, and will easily be
the biggest challenge of the season.