Top-Ranked Wildcats Handle Sun Devils

Top-Ranked Wildcats Handle Sun Devils

TUCSON, Ariz. - Arizona continued its historic start to the season on Thursday night, as seven of its players scored in double figures as they cruised past Arizona State 91-68 to remain unbeaten and improve to 18-0 on the season.

Led by its long and athletic frontcourt, Arizona overwhelmed the Sun Devils early on in the first half, using a 20-5 run to turn a close game into a blowout before both sides could make back to the locker room for halftime. The Wildcats shot 14-28 from the field in the first half while the Sun Devils started out ice cold for the second consecutive game, making just two of their first 17 shot attempts while the Wildcats made their run.

Arizona State trimmed a 21-point first half deficit down to 14 before the break, thanks in large part to its free throw shooting. The Sun Devils converted 14-17 free attempts and closed the half by making four of their final nine shot attempts to pull within 42-28 at halftime.

But the Wildcats opened the second half on a 10-2 run, quickly putting to rest any chance of a Sun Devil comeback as ASU started out just 1-7 from the floor.

"We just really wanted to compete," remarked Arizona State Head Coach Herb Sendek. "Compete with a lot of heart and a lot of compassion and try to do what we do to the best of our ability. I wasn't real pleased with our defensive effort throughout. I thought we had some good stretches but we certainly, in the second half, were pretty easy to score against.

"And then down at the other end we committed 18 turnovers and that's hard to overcome."

The Wildcats were led by junior guard Nick Johnson who finished with 17 points on 6-9 shooting. Johnson also became 48th player in school history to score 1,000 points in his career when he hit one of his three three-pointers on the night in the first half.

Freshman Aaron Gordon added 16 points and six rebounds for the Wildcats, while sophomore Caleb Tarczewski posted 12 points and eight rebounds.

"They've got seven guys right now, all of whom scored double figures again tonight," said Sendek. "All of whom could get 20, easily, man for man. They're very well balanced. Their size is a factor and they're hard to score against in the half-court when their defense is set. They play tremendous half-court defense and it's hard to get anything at the basket."

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson chipped in 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench while Gabe York, T.J. McConnell and Brandon Ashley all scored 10 points apiece for the hosts.

The Wildcats entered Thursday's contest sporting a conference best 10.7 rebounding advantage over it opponents while the Sun Devils (13-5, 2-3) came in last in the Pac-12 patrolling the glass. Arizona used its length to out-rebound ASU 39-30 while also outscoring the Sun Devils by 20 points in the paint.

"They do a great job," said ASU center Jordan Bachynski, who had just three points and six rebounds in the loss. "I think we did a pretty decent job. We've had troubles all year rebounding and I think today guys really stepped up. They boxed out their man and, I mean, Jon did a great job with his rebounds. It's just a tough one."

"It's nothing that I haven't seen," added sophomore point guard Jahii Carson. "It's just tougher when there are three of them down there and especially when the refs aren't giving you the calls I thought I should have got. It's nothing I haven't seen before but it is tougher when you have three guys, sometimes four out there. Sometimes five out there."

Carson led all scorers with 20 points. He was one of three Sun Devils in double figures, along with senior Bo Barnes, who scored 13 points off the bench, and Shaquielle McKissic, who added 10 points.

The Sun Devils were without shooting guard Jermaine Marshall, their second leading scorer on the season. The senior reportedly tweaked his groin earlier in the week during practice but is expected to return next week.

"Jermaine's an integral part of our program and it's tough to play without a guy like that but there were guys that stepped," added Bachynski. "Bo stepped up and hit three great shots. There is some silver lining to this; we had guys step up and really show us what they can do."

Arizona (18-0, 4-0) is off to its best start in school history, surpassing its 16-0 start in 1931 and has now six of the last seven match-ups against Arizona State. The Sun Devils fell to 1-8 all-time against teams number one ranked teams, with its only win coming against Oregon State in 1981.

The Sun Devils will attempt to put an end to their two-game losing skid next Thursday when they host Utah back home at Wells Fargo Arena.

"When you go on a two-game losing streak, there's always something to be concerned about," said Carson. "I think our guys have been showing a lot of energy lately. Even though we lost this game pretty badly, I think we took a step in the right direction as far as playing harder. Even though we've got things to work on, I definitely think that we're going to play a lot harder. I think it's time that we hold each other accountable and time for guys to make plays."

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