Arizona went to L.A. in hopes that winning a couple games might propel them to winning the Pac-12 regular season title but those hopes were swept away as USC and UCLA pinned losses on the favored Wildcats. Against UCLA, four Arizona players scored in double figures highlighted by Grant Jerrett’s 14 off the bench. In the 74-69 loss, Arizona turned the ball over twice as many times as UCLA and that ended up being the smoking gun.
Arizona State was swept on the road in Los Angeles after falling in two nail biting games. Losing in overtime to UCLA was tough but coming up just short against USC was the straw that broke the seasons back. Jahii Carson was incredible with 23 points and Jordan Bachynski poured in 17 of his own. Down 28-9 late in the first half, the Sun Devils clawed their way back before losing when Carson’s 40-footer bounced off the rim.
Simply put, this game does not matter for Arizona State’s tournament chances. Given their recent slide, the Sun Devils are so far off the NCAA bubble that only a Pac-12 Tournament title run will get them in the Field of 68. That being said, momentum can be a glorious thing and if ASU can wreck UofA’s Senior Day, they can take that confidence to Las Vegas and get hot.
Sean Miller: 4th season at Arizona – 92-41; 212-88 career
Herb Sendek: 7th season at ASU – 118-105; 372-263 career
G – Mark Lyons (15.1 PPG, 3.1 APG) vs. Jahii Carson (17.8 PPG, 5.0 APG)
G – Nick Johnson (11.4 PPG, 34% 3PT) vs. Evan Gordon (10.2 PPG, 35% 3PT)
F – Solomon Hill (13.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG) vs. Carrick Felix (14.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG)
F – Brandon Ashley (7.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG) vs. Jon Gilling (9.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG)
C – Kaleb Tarczewski (6.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG) vs. Jordan Bachynski (9.7 PPG, 3.7 BPG)
Why Arizona Can Win:
In a basketball crazy town, Senior Day is an unofficial holiday for Arizona and the trio being honored on Saturday are all impactful players that will look to finish their careers beating their rivals. Mark Lyons took full advantage of Jahii Carson’s foul trouble in the first meeting and his first taste of the rivalry after transferring from Xavier. Solomon Hill’s steady play makes him one of the most valuable players in the Pac-12, if not the country. Kevin Parrom’s career has been well-chronicled due to the countless hardships that he has had to overcome both on and off the court but for the rivalry’s sake, he will be Sun Devil enemy for many years after he took out Ty Abbott three years ago. With those three, along with Nick Johnson and the threesome of big freshmen, the Wildcats are deep at every position and are loaded with talent.
Why ASU Can Win:
Despite Arizona’s solid roster, the best player on the court will be Jahii Carson and when you have the best player, you have a chance. Carson’s value was highlighted in negative fashion in the first meeting after picking up three fouls in the first half and getting tagged with his fourth early in the second half, his impact was all but nullified until the game was out reach. If Carson can stay in the game and keep Mark Lyons quiet (figuratively and literally), the Sun Devils will have an important advantage in their favor. Carrick Felix, unfortunately, hasn’t been totally consistent in games against higher competition but this would be a fine time to give his team a great effort. Bachynski is talented enough to put up solid numbers against anyone on any given night but that is not always the case. He doesn’t need a 20/10/5 every night for ASU to be successful but he needs to be in double figures and he must protect the basket and impact any shots that come into the lane.
Key Stat: Sun Devil fans have spoken their minds about Herb Sendek but he has weathered the storm against ASU’s biggest rival. In 14 games against the Wildcats, Sendek’s led the Devils to a 7-7 record which includes his first season which many would agree was a wash. Last year’s season finale was Arizona’s death blow as the Sun Devils upset the bubble-residing Wildcats in Tempe.
X-Factor: Jahii Carson vs. Mark Lyons; as many basketball fans across the nation are aware, Mark Lyons is a chatty guy on the court and he is the toughest guy he knows. His time at Xavier was marred by his actions in their brawl against Cincinnati a year ago and his antics were on display last week when Larry Drew and Lyons were talking up a storm only to see Drew (and UCLA) come out on top. Carson’s poise is one of his greatest attributes and he will be able to give Arizona fits if he attacks Lyons and exploits their relatively soft interior.
Final Score: Arizona 71 ASU 63