After racing out to a 14-2 start the Arizona State basketball team hit another bump in the road Saturday as in-state rival Arizona came to Tempe and bounced the Sun Devils 71-54 at Wells Fargo Arena. The already thin Devils played without the services of key reserve Chris Colvin who was suspended and did not dress.
The game began with both teams feeding off the energy of the sellout crowd. After Even Gordon’s three-pointer on the Sun Devils (14-4, 3-2) first possession hit the side of the backboard, Solomon Hill filled the lane and stuffed it down over Jordan Bachynski to give the Wildcats (16-1, 4-1) an early lead. A Jahii Carson steal and hoop put the Devils up 9-8 before sophomore Nick Johnson’s three put UofA back up by two at the under 16 timeout.
The game remained tight as the Sun Devils backcourt of Gordon and Carson combined for 13 of ASU’s first 14 points. After Carson went to the bench with his second foul Gordon’s twisting layup put the Devils up 20-17 forcing Sean Miller to take a quick timeout.
ASU’s offense hit a cold streak going nearly five minutes without a field goal before Carson’s floater in the lane pulled ASU to within a point 23-22. The Cats stretched the lead to 29-22 before two Carson free throws ended the mini 12-4 ‘Cats run. The biggest play of the half was Carson picking up his third foul. Moments later Gordon picked Lyons’ pocket and dunked as the half ended with UofA leading 29-26.
Both teams struggled from the floor in the first half (Arizona 37.9%, ASU 39.1%). Carson and Gordon combined for 23 points while second-leading scorer Carrick Felix was held scoreless. Johnson and Lyons paced the Wildcats with nine each. Freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski added seven rebounds.
The second half started off sloppy as both teams struggled to find their rhythm offensively. Consecutive Johnson layups matched the ‘Cats largest lead of seven before Felix’s three pulled ASU within four.
Jonathan Gilling’s first bucket, a three, cut the ‘Zona lead to four and Felix’s two free throws made it 44-42 with just under 11 minutes to play. Carson picked up his fourth foul hacking Lyons in the lane and went to the bench at the 9:50 mark. Solomon Hill’s top of the key three pushed the lead back up to seven 51-44.
The Devils called timeout after another Johnson layup extending the Arizona lead to 55-44 as the “UofA, UofA” chant echoed through Wells Fargo Arena. Carson and his four fouls re-entered the game as the teams essentially traded baskets before an official timeout stopped play at the 3:58 mark with the ‘Cats up 63-50.
“The tempo really changed after I got my fourth foul,” Carson said after the game.
Lyons driving layup made it 67-54 and essentially iced the game as Sun Devils fans scurried to the exits with just over two minutes to play.
Lyons led the Wildcats with 24 points while Johnson added 19 and Hill 13. Carson paced the Devils while 22 and Gordon added 14 but ASU couldn’t find their third scoring option as Felix and Gilling combined for 11 points on 3-13 shooting, 3-11 from behind the arc.
Afterwards the senior Felix shouldered the blame for the Devils second consecutive Pac-12 loss.
“I just need to show up for my team and I didn’t do that today,” he explained. “As a leader I need to pick it up. I just beat myself. Tomorrow is a new day and I just need to get back at it.”
“We’ll try to learn from the game,” Sendek told the assembled media after the loss. “We’ll have to turn the page because in college basketball the next game is on you [quickly].”
ASU hosts USC Thursday night at 8:30.