No. 1 Arizona blows out rival ASU
TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona raced out to a big lead and did not back off, hitting the accelerator instead.
No way were the Wildcats going to let their biggest rival get even a sniff of a comeback.
Top-ranked Arizona raced out to a big early lead and extended it with a strong start to the second half, rolling past rival Arizona State in a 91-68 rout Thursday night.
"We tried to start out the game really well and made some shots and some stops on defense, then did the same thing in the second half," said Arizona guard Nick Johnson, who led the Wildcats with 17 points. "We didn’t want to give them any false hope of trying to come back or anything."
There wasn’t much chance the way the Wildcats were playing.
Arizona (18-0, 5-0 Pac-12) dominated the Sun Devils almost from the opening tip, turning missed shots and turnovers into points at the other end while building a 21-point lead in the first half.
The Wildcats didn’t let up, either, stretching the lead to extend the best start in school history.
Arizona put seven players in double figures, shot 56 percent and had 21 assists on 34 field goals to beat the Sun Devils for the sixth time in seven games.
Aaron Gordon had 16 points, and Kaleb Tarczewski added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Wildcats. T.J. McConnell finished with 10 points, six assists and three steals.
"No doubt about it, we have a group of guys that plays with a lot of energy, a lot of effort and we are willing to share the ball," Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
Arizona State (13-5, 2-3) played without second-leading scorer Jermaine Marshall and had trouble with Arizona’s size all night, shooting 34 percent.
Jahii Carson had 20 points and five assists, but struggled early and had at least four shots blocked. ASU center Jordan Bachynski battled foul trouble in the first half and wasn’t much of a factor when he was in the game, finishing with three points while missing all three of his shots.
Bo Barnes added 13 points for the Sun Devils, who had 18 turnovers and seven assists.
"You look at the results they are posting night in and night out, it wasn’t a surprise, only a confirmation," Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek said of Arizona. "They are very well balanced and their size is a factor."
Arizona has gotten off to the best start in school history behind its defense
The Wildcats entered the game fourth nationally in scoring at 56 points per game, seventh in field goal percentage at 37 percent and 13th in 3-point shooting at 28 percent.
Arizona State was already going to have a tough time against the long, athletic Wildcats and it certainly didn’t help that Marshall was out after injuring his groin in practice this week.
Revved up by the boisterous crowd, Arizona was at its defensive best early, contesting every shot, pass and dribble.
Arizona State missed 15 of its first 17 shots and Carson had nowhere to go against Arizona’s pressure — particularly McConnell — while missing his first five shots.
After a jittery offensive start, the Wildcats started hitting from everywhere, racing out to a 21-point lead while making 14 of 28 shots.
The Sun Devils started to shoot a little better late in the half, but had a hard time digging out of the hole, trailing 42-28 after shooting 6 of 26.
Arizona kept rolling to start the second half, hitting five of its first eight shots to stretch the lead to 22.
Gordon then scored on an alley-oop, Tarczewski threw down a dunk on a no-look pass from Gabe York and McConnell dropped in a 3-pointer, flashing three fingers to the fans across from the bench after putting the Wildcats up 59-38.
"Those guys are ready to play every day," said Carson, who shot 7 of 19. "They have great leadership and are No. 1 in the country for a reason. They just have so many weapons."