We continue our 2019-20 Sun Devil Classics series on Thursday with a rivalry game.
As memories from Arizona State Sun Devils basketball’s 2019-20 season slowly begin to fade, let us reminisce on their most exhilarating win of the pandemic-shortened season; January 25’s 66-65 comeback win over the Arizona Wildcats.
ASU tipped off their January 25th meeting with UA as losers in three of their last five matchups, including a 28 point blowout loss to those same Wildcats just three weeks earlier. Following an uninspiring non-conference schedule that lacked a standout victory, the Sun Devils badly needed a signature win to jump start what had been an up and down season so far.
The first half was eerily reminiscent of the two team’s earlier matchup, as UA jumped out to 43-30 halftime lead built mostly on a 25-3 run that lasted from the 12:51 mark to 5:35. ASU was inept offensively for much of the half, finishing the period shooting just 36% from the field including a dismal 17% from three.
UA on the other hand was playing some of their best basketball of the season, shooting 50% from both overall and from long distance, due in large part to the inspired play of freshman sensation Nico Mannion who finished the half with 12 points thanks to 4-5 shooting from three.
The second half though was a drastically different story, as ASU clawed their way back into the contest thanks to some staunch defensive and a few timely buckets. The Sun Devils didn’t completely erase the Wildcat lead until just 4:31 remained in the game, as a Remy Martin layup gave ASU their first lead since the game’s opening minutes.
What followed was an intense, back and forth scrap that more closely resembled a boxing match than a basketball game. Tensions ran high as the play escalated in physicality, with baskets coming at a premium as the two teams traded off strong defensive possessions. Ultimately, an Alonzo Verge Jr layup with 11 seconds remaining, combined with a timely defensive stand from ASU as time wound down, gave the Sun Devils the much needed victory as they erased a 22 point deficit to take down the rival Wildcats.
ASU’s comeback win, their largest in over 16 seasons, sparked what would become a season-defining stretch as the Sun Devils ripped off victories in eight of their next nine contests to finish the regular season in third place in the Pac-12. While ASU never got the chance to write the ending to their storybook season, the 2019-20 campaign was undoubtedly a success as the future only grows brighter for coach Bobby Hurley and co.