For the second straight season, the ASU Sun Devils got the better of the Arizona Wildcats on their home floor, knocking them off 81-78 on Saturday afternoon from Tempe.
Here are five things we learned in the upset at Wells Fargo Arena.
Another Wells Fargo Frenzy: Coming in, ASU was 18-3 in last 21 home games and as many remember, won last matchup in Tempe between these two teams 69-66 in double overtime on Valentine’s night last season. Make it 19-3 and two in a row at home against the ‘Cats. Last year’s affair saw both teams shoot poor from the floor in a low scoring battle. This time around, ASU brought it offensively shooting 50% from the floor and 46% from three-point range, leading by as much as nine in the second half. Even the defense really stepped up as the Wildcats struggled shooting from the floor with scoring droughts of almost four minutes and then almost three at two different points in the first half which saw the Sun Devils go from down seven, to up seven. The Wildcats came in holding 66 of their last 67 opponents under 80 points. It was just the second time this season they have given up 80 but the first one was a win over Stanford. “That was our worst defense of the season and it’s not close,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said after the game.
Holding it down: For ASU, finding someone who could take care of the basketball, control the pace and create for others was a huge issue for the non-conference slate and into the first few games of conference play which saw them get off to an 0-3 start. But something has clicked: freshman guard Tra Holder and the Sun Devils are now reaping the benefits. Holder was at it again for the Devils doing a fantastic job of attacking from all areas of the floor. Outside shooting and getting into the paint to score but also most importantly creating great looks for his teammates.”People say I get in the paint well,” Holder said after the win. “I just saw what the defense was giving me and tried to take advantage of it.”He was the lightning rod for ASU who took a seven-point lead into the locker room at half, leading the team with 10 points and five assists. He finished the game with 15 points and eight dimes. Earlier in the week, head coach Herb Sendek called him the most improved player in the conference. That remained true in this game.
Savior Savon: With the trees the Wildcats have inside, ASU needed to find an answer in the interior offensively to get some high percentage buckets. They got that and then some from UNLV sophomore transfer from Savon Goodman. He scored eight very quick buckets to keep the Sun Devil momentum going into the second half. “We definitely had a mindset we were going to play inside out,” he explained after the win. “It was open…we just went with what was working.” He made his first seven shots from the floor and finished the game with 15 points on seven of nine shooting and nine rebounds. His effort was clutch, especially in the second half.
Mad about McConnell: senior T.J. McConnell has undoubtedly been the MVP for the Wildcats this season and it was very evident Saturday. This game might have been far more one-sided in favor of the Sun Devils if not for his outstanding performance. He only played sparingly in the first half because of two fouls. While on the bench, the Sun Devils made their first big run to get back into the lead. With the Wildcats scoring droughts, he still managed to shoot 11-19 from the for field himself. He had a season high 25 and was really the only Arizona player that brought it for 40 minutes.
Bo off the Bench: The Arizona Wildcats have scored a combined eight points in their last two games at Wells Fargo Arena. All eight score in this one by Gabe York. In this game, ASU got 26 off the bench in large part to the fantastic play of Bo Barnes. The local product had a big 18 points including a high three in the late stages of the game. ASU is now winners of four of their last six and in those wins, Barnes is averaging just under 14 points per game hitting a combined 11 three-point field goals.
Both the Sun Devils and Wildcats hit the road to face the Washington schools next week.