ASU nearly perfect in upset of UofA

slider asuSunday afternoon Arizona State (10-20, 6-12) found a way to steal the spotlight upsetting in-state rival Arizona 87-80 at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe.

In what was supposed to be a tune-up game for the Wildcats (21-10, 12-6) heading into the Pac-12 tournament and an opportunity to add a win to their NCAA tournament resume, someone forgot to tell the hosts who played their best game of the year on the final day of the regular season.

Things couldn’t have started better for the Devils as Garrick Felix’s off-balance layup was followed by Jonathan Gilling’s desperation three-pointer as the shot clock was expiring to put ASU up 5-0 in the opening minute. The ‘Cats answered back with an 8-0 run of their own following Kyle Fogg’s three-pointer. 

The teams traded baskets midway through the first half as each used good ball movement and patience to get easy looks deep in the paint. Gilling helped keep the Devils in rhythm offensively scoring five straight points and Trent Lockett’s second dunk of the half gave ASU a 28-25 lead near the 8:00 minute mark. 

UofA would fight back and take a 36-33 lead before Gilling’s third three (game-high 13 first-half points) pulled the Devils even. Mesa Mountain View alum Brendon Lavender answered with his third three of the half followed by Jesse Perry’s transition dunk gave the ‘Cats a six-point lead going into the break. Solomon Hill led Arizona in scoring in the first half with 12, while Perry added nine, five rebounds and three blocks.

ASU started the second half much like they did the first, rattling off seven-straight points as Felix’s transition hoop put the Devils up 45-44 and forced Sean Miller to call timeout. Fogg’s second three stopped the bleeding and put the Wildcats back up 47-45. Both teams continued to stay hot offensively as Lavender hit his fourth triple, but the scrappy Sun Devils re-took the lead at 57-56 when Kenny Cain finished on the break off a nice pass from Gilling.

Chris Colvin’s athletic layup over Nick Johnson made it 63-59 ASU and temporarily silenced the large sections off Wildcat finds inside Wells Fargo Arena. Lavender continued to haunt his hometown school with two more three’s to tie the game at 65 and eventually surged ahead following freshman point guard Josiah Turner’s three-point play. 

Center Jordan Bachynski (11 points, 6 blocks) put the Devils back up four with a hoop in the paint over Perry. The ‘Cats got a break in the final two minutes when Chris Colvin fouled Fogg on a deep three with the shot clock running down. Fogg converted all three to pull UofA to within 78-77.

Gilling then hit the biggest shot of his young ASU career when he sank his fifth three of the day, before Fogg pulled Arizona back within one with a three-point play in the paint. However, Miller’s team would get no closer as Lockett and Felix combined to go 6-6 from the stripe in the Devils seven-point win.   

“That was huge. Free throws have plagued us throughout the season but today everybody had the confidence and knocked ’em down,” Lockett said. “It probably won us the game.”

ASU made 22-24 free throws (91%)  and shot 56% from the floor, while collecting 13 steals and only committing 10 turnovers.

“I thought it was a tremendous team effort today,” Sendek said after the win. “We could pass around superlatives to everybody who contributed and played this afternoon.”

The trio of Gilling, Felix, and Lockett each scored 21 to pace the Sun Devils. 

Fogg led Arizona with 23 points.

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