No. 15 ‘Cats drop Sun Devils behind Fogg
Derrick Williams found himself in a labyrinth of arms for the second straight game, unable to get the ball at times, often surrounded by three or four defenders when he finally did.
Lamont Jones and Kevin Parrom made up for their star teammate’s quiet offensive night the first time around. This time it was Kyle Fogg, a defensive specialist who spent the week working on his shot just for this chance.
Fogg hit six 3-pointers and matched a career high with 26 points as Arizona State collapsed on Williams, helping the 15th-ranked Wildcats pull out a not-always-pretty 67-52 win over the Sun Devils on Sunday night.
”With them collapsing around on me, I had to find my open teammates and that’s what I did,” Williams said. ”Luckily, Fogg hit a lot of great shots tonight.”
Arizona (21-4, 10-2 Pac-10) didn’t shoot particularly well against Arizona State’s zone – 40 percent – and Williams took just five shots on his way to 11 points.
The Wildcats made up for it with a hounding defense and big contributions from Fogg, a 7.9-point scorer on the season, and Jesse Perry, who scored all of his 10 points in the second half after a rough opening 20 minutes.
”Derrick Williams deserves a lot of credit and part of the credit he deserves is when teams try to collapse on him, sometimes his presence alone opens up some shots for his teammates,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. ”But it’s up to them to make them and Kyle did take advantage of those.”
Arizona State (9-15, 1-11) played gritty defense, blocking a season-high nine shots, but couldn’t find many seams in Arizona’s man-to-man defense.
The Sun Devils shot 37 percent, including 4 of 15 from 3-point range, and didn’t get much production from leading scorers Trent Lockett and Ty Abbott. Those two combined for 17 points on 6-of-23 shooting, while 3-point specialist Rihards Kuksiks was 1 for 6 during an empty shooting night that led to Arizona State’s 10th straight conference loss.
”A lot of it was because of their defense,” said Jamelle McMillan, who led the Sun Devils with 12 points and five assists. ”They do a great job helping. They play above the rim most of the time in the paint, altering shots and stuff.”
Arizona State had gotten the better of this in-state rivalry in recent years, winning six of seven before this season, and was supposed to be the team on the rise after finishing second in the Pac-10 a year ago.
How quickly things change.
Arizona turned it around faster than anyone thought to climb back to its familiar place atop the Pac-10 and the Sun Devils went on a downward spiral to the bottom of the standings.
Arizona State has been hampered by injuries and illness, making it hard sometimes to practice, much less play games. The Sun Devils entered Sunday’s rivalry with one win since New Year’s Day, though four of their losses have been by four points or less.
The Wildcats, after missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in 26 years last season, have become the team to beat in the Pac-10. Arizona won the first meeting with Arizona State by 11 on Jan. 15 in Tucson behind Williams’ career-high 31 points, and had eight days to rest up after needing three overtimes to beat California in its last game.
Williams had just 12 points – with 18 rebounds – against the Bears, but Jones had a career-high 27 points and hit big shots at the end of regulation and during the final two overtime periods. Parrom also set a career high with 25 points.
This time it was Fogg’s turn to give Arizona a lift.
The junior guard, who spent extra time after practice shooting this week, hit a pair of 3-pointers to score 10 points in the first 6 1/2 minutes and added another late to put the Wildcats up 33-24 by halftime. Fogg followed six quick points by Perry early in the second half with another 3, putting the Wildcats up 43-24.
”It felt like every shot I put up was going to go in,” said Fogg, who was 6 for 9 from beyond the arc.
Arizona State wasn’t quite done, following with a 10-0 run that had the unusually raucous crowd at Wells Fargo Arena on its feet.
It turned out to be the last gasp, though.
Williams powered his way to a couple of hoops and Fogg hit a couple more as Arizona used its balance to gradually pull away over the final 7 minutes, sweeping the season series and sending the Sun Devils to another disappointing loss.
”I thought Arizona was the better team,” Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. ”They have been all year. They’re having a great year. I said a long time ago, I think they’re one of the best teams in the country, and they seem to be proving me right.”