TUCSON, AZ-The Arizona Wildcats left no doubt why they’re the number one team in the country crushing in-state rival Arizona State 91-68 before a raucous crowd of 14, 545 at McKale Center. With the win the ‘Cats stay perfect, improving to 18-0, 5-0 in Pac-12 play. The Sun Devils suffer their second-straight blowout loss falling to 13-5, 2-3 in conference.
Below are five things we learned from the game.
1. Not even The Marshall Plan could have saved ASU: head coach Herb Sendek was without the services of second-leading scorer Jermaine Marshall (15.4 points/game) who sat out after injuring his groin Tuesday at practice. Yes, it made things more difficult for ASU offensively but the Sun Devils looked more like Ice Devils in the first half hitting only 23% of their shots. At the under eight-minute media timeout they were 2-17 from the field and 0-3 on three’s. In short, this game was over before it started.
2. The ‘Cats looked like the hunted, not the hunter: coming off an ugly meltdown last week at UCLA, you would have figured the Devils would leave it all on the floor with nothing to lose and everything to gain Thursday night. In truth, UofA was quicker to loose balls all night and dominated the boards (39-30). T. J. McConnell’s hustle steal of Bo Barnes and perfect assist from his knees to Nick Johnson in the second half caught the attention of his coach. “That was as good of a play as you can make in basketball,” head coach Sean Miller said.
3. In the Nick of Time: doesn’t it seem like former Gilbert Highland star Nick Johnson has been in Tucson forever? The junior continued his string of hot play scoring a team-high 17 points on six of nine shooting from the field. “I think he’s playing this year with a chip on his shoulder in a healthy way,” Miller explained. “If there’s another guard in the country who means more to their team than Nick Johnson than they’re an All-American.” Well-said and dead on. He’s the glue who can change the game at both ends of the floor as evidenced by his great block on Jahii Carson.
4. Flash Gordon: we won’t be talking about an extended stay for Aaron Gordon in the Old Pueblo. The freshman phenom has lived up to the hype and more. His versatility was a matchup problem for ASU. He trailed only Johnson in scoring (16) and added six rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes. Miller said you don’t realize his all-around impact until you look at the stat sheet after the game. I disagree. Case in point Thursday night.
5. Bachynski Benched: the Devils didn’t get much help at either end from senior center Jordan Bachynski who failed to make a field goal (0-3) and sat for an extended period of time in favor of backup Eric Jacobsen who outscored Bachynski (4-3) before fouling out in the second half. With Marshall out, any hope for ASU to pull the stunner would have been aided by Bachynski getting UofA center Kaleb Tarczewski in foul trouble. Instead, ‘Zeus’ had more combined points (12) and nearly as many rebounds (eight) as both of ASU’s big men.