Rivalry games are games where anything and everything is possible. On Saturday night in Tempe, Arizona anything and everything happened for the Arizona State Sun Devils in their 66-65 win over their hated rival Arizona.
In a game where you could ask the questions: Did Arizona State win the game? Did Arizona give the game away?
In my opinion, the Sun Devils won the game. Arizona State made the adjustments, made the plays, and had a better focus than the Wildcats. Especially in the second half of the game.
It was a tale of two halves for the Sun Devils.
During the first half of play Arizona State seemed out of sorts. Their shots were not falling at all. At one point during the first half the Sun Devils were shooting in the 24% range. It was not looking good. In fact, it was looking like a repeat of what happened to the Sun Devils down in Tucson just a few weeks ago.
The Arizona Wildcat fans were celebrating, chanting “U of A, U of A”, and were expecting to walk out of Desert Financial Arena with a win.
Arizona point guard, Nico Mannion, had his shooting touch going in the first half. Mannion had 12 points in the first half, including 4-5 from three point territory. Nico was feeling it in the first half.
Arizona built a lead that grew to 22 points and it seemed like the air in the building was all sucked out for the Sun Devil faithful.
However, there is a reason why you keep playing the game and you keep competing.
Games can change and momentum can change at a moments notice. It changed for the Sun Devils.
By the end of the first half, the Sun Devils had cut the 22 point Wildcat lead to 13.
The halftime score was 43-30 in favor of the Wildcats. The momentum that the Sun Devils gained by cutting the lead down to something that was manageable carried over to the second half.
What was said at halftime by the players or Coach Hurley?
“It was positive, everybody was positive because we felt like we could comeback and win. At the end of the day, we have tons of scorers. At the defensive end we needed to pick it up.” Remy Martin explained.
Arizona State started the second half with a better focus on the defensive end of the floor which helped them get out on the break. The Sun Devils started scoring the ball at the rim and from the perimeter.
Arizona did not score. The Wildcats struggled from the outside and the inside. There was a lid on the basket for Arizona.
The fans for the Sun Devils stand up until the opposition score at the beginning of each half. Let’s just say that the ASU fans stood for a long time at the beginning of the second half. Which delighted them.
Arizona State fans started sensing that the comeback was on and that helped to feed the momentum for ASU players and their head coach, Bobby Hurley.
“It was straight fire out there.” Hurley said after the game.
Arizona did have a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but it was not to be on Saturday night.
Arizona State went out there and took this win. The Sun Devils earned every part of this win and hopefully this can be a catalyst for them the rest of the season.
Next up: Arizona State goes to Washington State. Arizona goes to Washington.