Every time a rivalry game is played the better team always has to proceed with caution because anything can happen in a rivalry game. Coming into The Territorial Cup game, Arizona and Arizona State were two different teams heading in two different directions. The Arizona Wildcats were ranked number seven in this game. The Sun Devils were just hoping to play spoiler to the Wildcats.
The Sun Devils have played spoiler before though.
Arizona State was coming off a crazy, upset win over the USC Trojans and were looking to pull off another miracle. Emphasis on miracle.
The Arizona Wildcats were looking for a little bit of redemption after being beat by the UCLA Bruins on their home court. That was a bad omen for the Sun Devils.
Rivalry games are tricky, like I said earlier. Arizona had to guard against being over confident against a smaller, less talented team in Arizona State. Arizona State had nothing to lose in this game. The Sun Devils played like it.
Coming out the gate the Sun Devils played loose and were hanging around. The longer a less talented team can hang around the talented team it can turn the outcome of the game around.
How could Arizona State compete with the Wildcats?
The Sun Devils stayed with the Wildcats due to poor shooting by Arizona. The Wildcats were having big problems getting the ball through the basket.
Arizona shot 34% in the first half on 11-32 shooting. The Cats couldn’t hit from beyond the three-point line either. Arizona hit a dismal 2-10 from beyond the arc. I was starting to wonder if the Wildcats needed to be put on upset alert.
Comparably, the Sun Devils shot just a little bit better at 42% from the field and 36% from the three-point line. Arizona State also kept it close in the rebound department as well. The rebound advantage was only 22-17 in favor of the Wildcats.
When those factors were added up it equaled a 30-29 lead for Arizona going into the locker room at halftime.
Adjustments were needed by the Wildcats to avoid one of biggest upsets in the Territorial Cup series and in college basketball this season.
When the Wildcats came out of the locker room to the chorus of boos by the Sun Devil faithful it was obvious that Arizona head coach Sean Miller had communicated something to his team.
In the first couple of minutes of the second half the Wildcats went from a one point lead to a 10-point lead. In a blink of an eye, the game was done.
From the moment the Sun Devils took a timeout to figure out what had just hit them the Wildcats showed why the team was ranked as high as they were coming into the game.
Lauri Markkanen, the talented freshman forward, for the Wildcats started asserting himself in the paint. Markkanen is a guy who can score from the outside, inside, can run the court, is a good free throw shooter, and by all accounts will be a first round draft pick in the NBA Draft. Markkanen finished the game with 10 points, nine rebounds, and couple of crowd pleasing blocks.
Arizona State had no answer for him. The Sun Devils don’t have any kind of size to combat their opponents size. The Sun Devils try their best to compete with bigger teams, but it isn’t working this year.
Allonzo Trier of Arizona who started the game slowly, finished the game with 19 points and five rebounds to help the Wildcats survive an upset bid by the Sun Devils.
In the end, all the talent that the Arizona Wildcats have was too much for the Sun Devils to contend with. The Wildcats walked out of Wells Fargo Arena with a 73-60 win.
The Wildcats now turn their attention to Pac-12 Tournament where a possible number one seed is on the line if they come out with the tournament trophy.
Arizona State needs to have a deep run in the conference tournament to get a possible bid to a post-season tournament.
Two different programs going in two different directions.