Sun Devils Hold Off Wildcats, 60-52

Feb. 21, 2009

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TUCSON, Ariz. - Arizona State used a 19-2 second half scoring run to erase a 12-point first half deficit and knock off host Arizona, 60-52, Saturday afternoon in Pac-10 play at McKale Center.

A month ago when the two teams met for the first time in Tempe, Arizona State overwhelmed Arizona with pressure defense and a dominant inside game. In the return match, Arizona appeared to have learned its lesson and came ready to defend its home floor.

The Wildcats brought a needed intensity to the game played in front of a boisterous season-best crowd of 4,136. Courtney Clements came out firing and scored eight early points as Arizona jumped out to a 14-8 lead.

Despite a significant size disadvantage, Arizona found success in the paint and pounded the ball inside with a high-low set. Ify Ibekwe fed Amina Njonkou on back-to-back plays to double a four-point advantage to 18-10 and force an Arizona State timeout.

Reiko Thomas took her turn to add a pair of buckets before Njonkou and Ashley Frazier each hit to complete a 8-0 run for a 26-14 advantage.

The Sun Devils, however, showed why they entered the game on a 11-game winning streak and crept into the rankings at #25 this past week. Sybil Dosty and Kayli Murphy went inside as Arizona State quickly put together a 11-0 run of its own late in the first half. Frazier hit two free throws late to end the spurt and Arizona took a 28-23 advantage into the intermission.

The second half begun with the teams watching the Arizona lead hover around seven points through the first six minutes. Ibekwe converted a layup at the 13:40 mark for a 38-31 lead, but the Arizona offense would find things difficult the rest of the way.

The Wildcats missed 8-straight shots, a pair of free throws and committed three turnovers as the Sun Devils reeled off 13-straight points. Ibekwe ended the drought after a steal by Njonkou, but Arizona State added six more points to build a 50-40 lead with 5:22 to play.

Instead of folding up the tents, Arizona continued to battle and used a 9-2 stretch over the next 2:02 to close the gap to 52-49. Danielle Orsillo hit a pair of free throws to push the lead back to five before Ibekwe hit another short jumper with 55 seconds left to make it 54-51.

Forced to foul, Arizona was at the mercy of Arizona State at the free throw line. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the Sun Devils made all eight of their free throws over the final three minutes to close out the win. Arizona State was nearly perfect at the line, connecting on 17-of-18 (.944) for the game.

The Sun Devils also bounced back from an icy 29 percent (9-of-31) first half shooting performance to connect on 10-of-21 (.476) after intermission. The tables turned the other way for Arizona as they opened the game hitting 12-of-28 (.429), but made just 10-of-33 (.303) over the final 20 minutes.

Dymond Simon led all scorers with 18 points for Arizona State (20-6, 12-2), which has now won 12-straight games. Orsillo chipped in with 11 points while Briann January had nine points and five assists. Clements and Frazier had 13 points to pace the Wildcats.

Ibekwe added 10 points, all in the second half, and matched her career-high with 20 rebounds. Njonkou tossed in 11 points and pulled down nine boards.

Arizona (10-15, 3-11) hosts its final two home contests of the season starting on Thursday, February 26 against Washington State at 7 p.m.

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