Tip off: 2:30 M.T.
The court was rushed...twice, Jahii Carson perhaps hung on to the rim too long, it took two overtimes, but ASU beat No. 2 Arizona 69-66 in double overtime. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils the most integral part of that victory, Jermaine Marshall who scored the winning bucket with 14.7 seconds left in the second extra frame, is gone. Jordan Bachynski, who swatted guard T.J. McConnell's shot in the waning seconds is also no longer around. One big difference from a year ago for the Wildcats is the return of Brandon Ashley, who didn't play in last year's matchup in Tempe because of a foot injury. If deja vu is to occur Saturday afternoon, the Sun Devils will have to find an alternate path to victory.
Arizona and ASU are different from their last meeting five weeks ago, too. The Sun Devils found a few quality wins against Cal and Oregon State while the Wildcats have rattled off six straight victories of their own. ASU has also lost freshman point guard Kodi Justice for the season, who was coming into his own before a foot injury sidelined him for the rest of the year.
One thing is for certain, Saturday's matchup will certainly be a different animal than the one in Tucson. Whether that's a positive or negative for ASU remains to be seen.
ASU update 11-11 (3-6):
The stat line showed a dominate performance by the Oregon Ducks Jan. 30 in Tempe, but somehow the Sun Devils managed to stick around. Shaquielle McKissic, despite feeling ill, hit a game tying three with .9 seconds left to send the game into overtime. Eric Jacobsen had fouled out right before regulation ended and it hurt ASU in the extra frame, falling to Oregon 68-67. Sendek blamed poor free throw shooting as the Sun Devils were just seven of 15 from the charity stripe. McKissic had 24 points and five boards in the loss. He leads ASU, averaging 11.3 points per game. Also with a strong showing was freshman guard Tra Holder who managed 10 points and is clearly progressing and showing improvement in conference play.
No. 6 Arizona update 20-2 (8-1):
The Wildcats have lost only once since their last meeting with ASU, falling 58-56 to Oregon State in Corvallis. They have since won their last six games, including a statement victory over then No. 8 Utah 69-51. Freshman star Stanley Johnson leads Arizona in both points (14.5) and rebounds (11.3). As March gets closer, the Wildcats are trying to secure a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Keys to victory:
1. Embrace the situation
The Sun Devils are clearly the underdogs here, that surprises nobody. ASU has next to nothing to lose tomorrow and if they go out there playing like it, then they might give themselves a shot at the end. It's their home court, if they come with the mindset of protecting it like they did last season and play tough throughout, they could pull off the upset again. They'll need to rely on players like Shaquielle McKissic who has been playing better as of late and has beaten Arizona before.
Herb Sendek knows how to beat Arizona. He's 8-8 against the Wildcats, ASU has the second most wins against Arizona in the past eight years of any Pac-12 team other than UCLA. The Sun Devils were 1-22 against Arizona prior to Sendek coming to ASU. He clearly puts his players in the right kinds of situations to beat Arizona. While it may not always happen and the Sun Devils are blown out sometimes, he has to find that formula again Saturday.
3. Close out hard to the ball
Arizona is ninth in the country in field goal percentage, shooting at a 49.4 percent clip. The easiest way to alter shots without blocking ability is to give a hard contest at the point of release, which means closing out hard to the ball. If any team is doing this correctly, you should hear their shoes squeak as they approach the shooter. Another key is to make sure they're the second person to leave the floor after the shooter and don't over pursue the shot fake. If the Sun Devils stay balanced and can contest well to bring down that shooting percentage they could give themselves a chance.
Prediction: No. 6 Arizona- 84 ASU- 68