Arizona-Arizona St. Preview
While Arizona didn't have much trouble bouncing back from its first loss, a visit to Tempe figures to provide the Wildcats with a considerably difficult test.
No. 7 Arizona concludes a stretch of three straight road games Saturday against in-state rival Arizona State, which has been nearly unbeatable at home.
Two nights after falling 70-66 at Oregon, the Wildcats (15-1, 3-1 Pac-12) got back on track last Saturday with an 80-70 win at Oregon State. Senior standouts Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill had 16 points apiece for Arizona, which pretty much led from start to finish, going up by as many as 17 in the second half.
"Any game in our conference that's on the road is a difficult game, and that's why it's such a thrilling feeling to be able to win," coach Sean Miller said.
The Wildcats now turn their attention to the Sun Devils (14-3, 3-1), who've been a force this season after winning just 10 games in 2011-12.
"They have a good team," Miller said. "Their non-conference season represented that, and I think through the first four games of (conference play), they've played as well as any team.
"It's an important road game for us, and I think from our perspective, we want to perform to our standards and be the best that we can be. We've proved when we are at that level, it's gonna take a really good performance by the opponent to beat us."
The Sun Devils put on quite a show the last time Arizona came to town March 4, winning 87-80 while shooting 55.8 percent. Swingman Carrick Felix scored 23 while forward Jonathan Gilling added a career-high 21.
"Last year is last year. It was a great game between us, but we have a different team and they have a different team and players so there is definitely going to be a battle between both teams. We are two of the top teams in the Pac-12 so it is going to be a battle for 40 minutes," said Felix, who has scored at least 17 in three of four conference games.
"Both teams are going to want it and play it like it is the last game, a championship game."
While Arizona State got the best of visiting Arizona last season, the Sun Devils have dropped 10 straight matchups against ranked Wildcats teams by an average of 15.6 points.
"We are going to prepare the same way we prepare for each team. Going into great detail with our scouting reports and just going over their plays in our practice," coach Herb Sendek said. "We will be ready to go. ... We have smart players and we know we have to play a complete game. We are facing one of the top 10 teams in the country."
After winning six straight for the first time in four seasons, Arizona State couldn't keep up Sunday in a 68-65 road loss to the Ducks. Freshman star Jahii Carson, averaging a team-high 17.1 points, scored 20 for the second consecutive game but the Sun Devils made just five of a season-low nine free-throw attempts.
Arizona State, though, has to be feeling good about regrouping at home, where it's gone 11-1 while outscoring foes by an average of 11.1 points. Sendek is counting on a sold-out crowd to give his team an edge Saturday.
"It is definitely going to be a very emotional game," he said," because of the atmosphere the crowd and just the fact that it is ASU and U of A."