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ASU Can’t Beat No. 4 Arizona Despite Hot Start

Feb 7, 2022

The ASU men's hoops team could not pull off the second straight upset and fell to the No. 4 Arizona Wildcats 91-79 Monday night.

The Sun Devils came off the gate scorching hot, securing a 14-1 lead after notching four three-pointers. That forced Arizona to call an early timeout with only 3:10 minutes played, as ASU made 13 three-pointers.

However, an 11-0 run by the Wildcats cut the lead short and made Bobby Hurley call another timeout as the scoreboard showed the score 16-14 for ASU. From that point on, both teams traded buckets, as there were five lead changes in the last eight minutes of the first half. 

Although Arizona was leading by six at the end of the half, Jamiya Neal made a good steal off a pass and dunked the ball with authority to go to the locker rooms with the Wildcats up 40-36. ASU scored 32 points off 20 turnovers. 

The second half saw a turn of events, as ?ASU could not find an answer to Arizona's scoring. 

The Wildcats came from the locker room and recorded three straight runs (6-0, 10-0 and 8-0) to get away from the Sun Devils. That unified with the foul trouble, which made ASU be on the penalty with still 13:10 minutes to play. Those problems made Enoch Boakye and Jalen Graham to foul out

Despite the loss, four Sun Devils recorded double figures in scoring. Marreon Jackson and Jay Heath (4-of-7 from three) led ASU with 16 points. The other top scorers were DJ Horne (with three triples) and Kimani Lawrence (who also led in rebounding with Graham with four), both scoring 11 points.

The Sun Devils hoops team will now travel to Seattle to face Washington Thursday (Feb. 10) at 8 p. PT/9 p.m. MST on FS1.

"Well I credit Arizona, they were really good tonight. We kind of played the first seven minutes very well so the seven minutes that we didn't play well in Tuscon, I think we kind of made up for that. After that, we were kind of overmatched in a lot of ways. Things that we tried to avoid - points in the paint - we've been good lately in that department and it wasn't only their size in the front court, they had some run-outs in the transition game. You could see how quickly they could put points on the board. So... it's disappointing, always, to lose to your rival, in games like this. But I'm really happy with the students, just the crowd and the way they came out was unbelievable, so definitely, we appreciate their support in a game like this." 

On difficulty planning against Arizona's size: 
"Yeah, they go with those high-lows, they're good with finding a way to really duck in, they're just wide bodies. Tubelis is really looking a lot better than our first matchup, he's really moving better. Yeah, I mean they just have multiple ways that they can beat you, it's rare that a team has that quality of an inside game that they can go to in the half-court offense yet be very lethal in the open court too in transition with the athleticism of their wings."  

On Jamiya's development, especially defensively: 
"Well in a game where it got a little bit out of hand, it afforded me the opportunity to get him some more minutes as a freshman just to get a taste of playing in these big games. I think it'll help him and his development. Thought he made a really good steal late half that helped us keep it a reasonable halftime margin so he was very productive in his minutes, he did a nice job today." 

On whether or not the hot start took you out of your defensive mindset: 
"I was nervous that because we hit a bunch of threes that we might just fall in love with that. We just couldn't take advantage of JG as much as we have. He has been playing so well that you wonder if he's going to be able to sustain that for another game. The way they were guarding him, I think he could've had a few more opportunities if he just faced up more and was a little more aggressive and we talked about that a little bit but I think it just comes down to really the way we played the first four minutes of the second half. It just wasn't what you need in a game like this and we had been doing that against UCLA, we got out to an eleven point lead against them and USC as well so we did well early in those games in the second half and tonight we did not and then we were on our heels chasing." 

What were the key things that happened at the start of the second half? 
"We just didn't have great possessions of offense and, heck, I told the guys at the first media I don't think we got one stop, I mean, they scored every time down in a variety of ways and I remember Koloko got a rebound and we had three guys around him there and he came up with it and we just had a hard time with some of those 50/50 plays where if you do make them miss you have to try and take advantage of it but, yeah I mean we've had success this year just overall when we've defended at a high level. You can't let them shoot 56% and really expect to have a chance. I think the reason we had a chance in Tuscon was how well we defended and we didn't guard the way we needed to tonight." 

Second half struggles

"Just think we came out flat. They went on a run, and we were just chasing from there on out. We can't do that with a team like Arizona. They are a big team, athletic at every position. It takes a lot to play against them"

Tough schedule with three Top 25 teams in row: 
"It's tough, it's not easy. We talked about it in the locker room though, that if we want to make a run in the PAC-12 Tournament, we will have to play teams like that. That's just like the NCAA Tournament where you play a lot of top teams back-to-back. In games like this, you have to dig deep and find a way to win." 

Competing with every team in the country: 
"I think we can play with any team in the country. As you see, we played all of these teams tough. Unfortunately, we didn't win the games we wanted to win, but we learned a lot about ourselves. We are getting better each game. There's a lot to take from it, we just have to get back to the drawing board, and get ready for the next game."

Being a veteran leader:
"We have a lot of season left. We still have some games that we think we can win. We're finding ourselves as a team so we still have a chance to make something happen with the season. I am just going to reiterate that with the guys and not let them get too down about this game."

Opening Statement:

"They (ASU) came out and riding the high from a great win against UCLA and they punched us. The game was physical from the tip and our guys weren't quite ready to go, so we had to lock in and I'm really proud of them. It's a gut check win against a rival and being down 14-1 you could just say today's not our day, but our guys bounced back and told them at one point we're going to win this game by 20. We were right there to do that."