Instant Analysis: Sun Devils Stun Wildcats 66-65 in Tempe
For a while, it seemed like Arizona was going to turn in a repeat performance of its 27-point win over Arizona State just a few weeks ago. However, the Sun Devils took advantage of a flat-footed, absent-minded and, perhaps, over-confident Wildcats team that seemed to mail things in after jumping out to a 22-point, first half advantage. ASU would own the Wildcats for the game’s last 25 minutes, rallying and scoring the go-ahead bucket with just 10 seconds remaining to not only upset, but stun No. 22 Arizona 66-65 in Tempe.
Arizona’s Nico Mannion hit his fourth 3-Pointer of the first half to cap a 22-1 scoring run and boost Arizona’s lead to 34-13 with 6:51 to play before intermission. After a sloppy start for both teams (9 combined turnovers in the game’s first eight minutes), the Wildcats stifled ASU’s offense, while its own offense finally found its rhythm to set the stage for another Arizona blowout. However, the Sun Devils would quickly turn the tables, force the Wildcats into four turnovers during a three minute stretch, late, and then use a 6-0 scoring run to end the half and only trail by 13 points.
The Sun Devils (12-7, 3-3 Pac-12) would open the second half the way they ended the first, scoring 10 unanswered points to cap a 16-0 run and trail the Wildcats 43-40 with 16:21 remaining. From there, the teams battled, with Arizona clinging to slim leads until ASU finally retook the lead for the first time since the game's opening minutes on a driving layup by Remy Martin with less than five minutes to play.
The Wildcats (13-6, 3-3 Pac-12), despite being visibly shell shocked, would continue to fight and actually go ahead 65-63 on two Nico Mannion free throws with 1:41 remaining. It wouldn’t be enough though as the Wildcats would waste its remaining possessions, while ASU figured out a way to bank in one of two free throws on one possession and then score the game winner on a dribble drive and layup by Alonzo Verge Jr. with 10 seconds to play.
ASU’s Remy Martin led all scorers with 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting. Teammate Alonzo Verge Jr. scored the game-winner on a driving layup with 10 seconds to play. Verge Jr. finished with 13 points, while Rob Edwards added 15 points and seven rebounds.
Arizona’s Zeke Nnaji had a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Nico Mannion did score 16 points and grab five rebounds, but had zero assists, three turnovers, and battled foul trouble the entire second half.
How Arizona State Won?
ASU was more fluid in the offensive set. The Sun Devils did not shoot lights out, and never really got “hot” at any one moment in the game, but they did figure out a way to score 34 points inside the paint, which made it easier for them to forget about a woeful 6-for-29 effort from behind the 3-Point Line. ASU would finish with 12 offensive rebounds. Importantly, they negated Arizona’s +10 rebounding edge in the first half by grabbing seven more total rebounds than the Wildcats in the second half.
The Sun Devils were also the more physical team, something that has become a common theme in Arizona road losses this season. In the game’s first 15 minutes, the Wildcats seemed like they had finally broken through. They were physical, they were aggressive, and they did not hesitate to shoot in transition. In the second half, Arizona looked timid and completely out of sorts, particularly against a set ASU defense.
Josh Green, a player who must play well for Arizona to win on the road, was 0-for-8 shooting with just three rebounds and three turnovers. Max Hazzard, who gave Arizona valuable minutes a week ago in two dominating wins, was a complete no show in Tempe and was benched for the entire second half. Dylan Smith, who had eight points in the first half, scored just two points after intermission on 1-of-5 shooting. Similarly, Mannion only scored four of his 16 total points in the second frame. Overall, ASU’s defense held the Wildcats to just 7-for-25 shooting (28%) in the second half. The Wildcats missed all eight of their 3-Point tries after the break, and only made 8-of-12 free throws.
The usually efficient Wildcats had 18 turnovers and only shot 40.4 percent from the field thanks to a 28 percent shooting effort after intermission. The Wildcats were sloppy from start to finish, outside of their dominating 22-1 run in the first half that appeared to have broken the game wide open. However, the same sloppy turnovers and careless shots that slowed the Wildcats in the game’s first five minutes and the final four minutes of the first half, seemed to completely take over during the decisive second half.
ASU, to its credit, took full advantage and happily watched as Wildcats hoisted ill-advised 3-Point shots, left their feet in traffic only to make a careless pass, and stood around as long rebounds bounced into Sun Devil hands on the perimeter. In short, Arizona State earned the victory by never giving up and outworking their opponent.
Player of the Game
ASU’s Remy Martin didn’t hit the game winner, but he was steady from start to finish. His heady play and ability to not show panic when Arizona was building what felt like an insurmountable lead is exactly what any coach seeks in a point guard.
Stat of the Game
Arizona’s 18 turnovers were telling. Critically, 10 of the 18 turnovers came from Arizona’s three starting guards. Even when the Wildcats were pulling away from ASU in the first half, a turnover here and a turnover there was likely the difference between a 22 point lead and a 25-plus lead. For an offensive team that can flow with the best of them, Arizona was far too careless in playing with a big lead. It definitely came back to haunt them.
Arizona visits Washington on Thursday, January 30 in Seattle. Tip time is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. MST. The game will be televised on ESPN2