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Arizona State Falls Short in Upset Bid at Arizona

Despite a strong first half, the Sun Devils were unable to complete their upset bid at Arizona.

It was gut-check time for the Arizona State Sun Devils as they made the trek to Tucson. 

In-state rivals Arizona, the No. 3 team in the nation, held home-court advantage and looked to bounce back in a major way after losing only their second game of the season against UCLA earlier in the week.

The Sun Devils hoped to finish the first month of the new year on a high note after going 1-4 in prior games. 

When it comes to rivalry games, you're typically able to throw out the record books, as each game is fair in terms of determining a winner. 

Saturday's contest between the two major universities in the state of Arizona proved to be a tale of two halves, as Arizona State eventually ran out of gas after an impressive first half. 

Here's how the action panned out in ASU's 67-56 loss to Arizona on Saturday:

First-Half Recap


G DJ Horne
G Jay Heath
F Jalen Graham
F Kimani Lawrence
F Alonzo Gaffney 

The Sun Devils saw the return of head coach Bobby Hurley and guard Jay Heath from a one-game suspension for personal misconduct towards officials. Forwards Kimani Lawrence (illness) and Alonzo Gaffney (face fracture) also were able to play. 

Arizona State jumped out to an early 6-2 lead, thanks to Arizona missing its first eight field-goals attempts. However, the Wildcats put on an early half-court press and forced six early ASU turnovers. 

The Sun Devils had a 12-8 lead at the 14:05 media timeout, going 5-of-7 from the field and converting both of their three-point attempts. 

Guard DJ Horne caught fire early for ASU, hitting three early three-pointers to keep Arizona State in the lead despite 11 turnovers in the first 12 minutes of the game. 

At the 8:06 mark, Arizona tied the contest at 18 thanks to a three-minute Sun Devils scoring drought. 

However, a jumper by forward Jalen Graham pushed Arizona State back into the lead at the 7:33 media timeout. 

Arizona State jumped out to its biggest lead of the half at 28-20 thanks to back-to-back three-pointers from Horne. Heading into the 3:51 media timeout, Arizona suffered for nearly four minutes without a bucket, allowing the Sun Devils to go on a 8-0 run while making just two of their last 12 shots. 

The score was tied at 32-32 entering the break, as Arizona State shocked nearly everybody in the first half thanks to superb shooting (44% from the field, 50% from downtown). 

Arizona stayed in the game thanks to the Wildcats converting 18-of-21 free throws despite missing all 13 shot attempts from three. 

Arizona State controlled the first half from the jump, as there were only four ties aside from the 16:27 ASU led. 

Second-Half Recap

The Wildcats managed their first lead of the game with a trip to the free-throw line at the 17:34 mark, 36-35. 

Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin found his footing in the second half, as he scored six points in the opening four minutes after scoring six in the entire first half. 

The Wildcats also had their first three-point shot go in at the 15:25 mark after missing their first 15 attempts. 

At the 11:52 media timeout, the Sun Devils trailed 47-44 after exchanging blows behind the three-point line. 

To begin the second half, the Wildcats shot 50% from the floor, a much-welcomed improvement for those in Tucson.

Arizona State had a handful of its key contributors in foul trouble with 10 minutes to go as Graham, Jackson and Boakye had three fouls and Gaffney four.

With six minutes remaining, the Sun Devils were down 57-48, as the Wildcats took advantage of a near five-minute scoring drought from ASU to climb to either team's biggest lead of the game. 

Arizona's run extended to 10-0, pushing the Wildcats' lead to 12 with 4:48 left and putting the dagger in ASU's hopes of a road upset.

Heading into the 3:52 media timeout, the Sun Devils hadn't scored a basket in 6:40. 

With 2:55 left, Gaffney received his fifth and final foul. 

The game ended with Arizona, favored by over 20 points heading into the matchup, walking away as winners despite being tested nearly the entire way.

Stat Leaders

Points: Horne (17)
Rebounds: Graham (8)
Assists: Jackson (4)

Arizona shot more than double the amount of free throws, as the Wildcats converted 26-of-32 attempts from the line. ASU made only 8-of-15 free throws.

The Wildcats were also able to win despite shooting an abysmal 13% from downtown.

Arizona State's losing streak was extended to three games, as the Sun Devils have lost six of their last six seven games.  

What's Next

The Sun Devils will have a few days off before beginning a tough three-game stretch at home, which begins with USC traveling to Tempe on Thursday, Feb. 3.