Sun Devils earn huge victory over rival Wildcats
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Arizona State had bolstered its NCAA tournament resume with string of victories, yet was still looking for a marquee win to punctuate it.
Beating No. 2 Arizona in double overtime for what may be the biggest home win in program history might do the trick.
Getting big plays from Jermaine Marshall and Jordan Bachynski, the Sun Devils grinded out a 69-66, double-overtime victory over the Wildcats on Friday night that set off a raucous celebration with their fans and carried over into the locker room.
”No words can explain the joy that we feel right now,” Arizona State center Jordan Bachynski said. ”That is huge for us … for our resume, for our goals of (playing in a) postseason tournament.”
Arizona State (19-6, 8-4 Pac-12) was blown out the previous time these desert rivals met, losing by 23 in Tucson on Jan. 16.
The Sun Devils were ready for the rematch.
They had been playing better, winning five of six games to get back in the postseason hunt.
Marshall, who missed the first game with a groin injury, was back in the lineup, itching to make up for the time he lost.
Bachynski had been playing better since a forgettable first game, when he had three points on 0-of-3 shooting.
Arizona (23-2, 10-2) also was a different team, playing its third game since forward Brandon Ashley, one of the team’s best and most versatile players, went out for the season with a foot injury.
Defense dominated the rematch, neither team was able to lead by more than six, with 16 lead changes and nine ties.
After failed attempts to win it by both teams at the end of regulation and the first overtime, Arizona State pulled it out in the second overtime, setting off two court rushes by the students: One after Jahii Carson scored on a breakaway dunk, the other after more time was put on the clock and Arizona’s Nick Johnson missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Second-ranked Arizona was the highest-ranked opponent Arizona State had ever beaten at home.
”This was the icing on the cake for me,” said Carson, who had 17 points and six assists. ”I’ve never beat them.”
He might not have been able to if it weren’t for Marshall and Bachynski.
Marshall watched the Sun Devils lose two games to Arizona last season while sitting as a transfer and was relegated to street clothes in the first meeting this season.
The senior seemed intent on making up for lost time, keeping the Sun Devils in it during an ugly first half, scoring 12 of their 21 points. Marshall hit a couple of shots early in the second half, but went quiet after that, failing to score in the final 10:58 of regulation and the first overtime.
He came through when Arizona State needed him most, though, scoring eight of his 29 points in the second overtime, including the go-ahead basket on a difficult drive with 14 seconds left.
”Jermaine was just incredible,” said Arizona State coach Herb Sendek, who was doused by a Gatorade bucket in the locker room. ”It just seems like the bigger the moment, regardless of what’s happened previously, he has an amazing capacity to make a big play, to be at his best when the game is on the line.”
Bachynski does, too, though in a different kind of way.
The 7-foot-2 Canadian center is not only the Pac-12’s all-time leader in blocked shots, he has a knack for swatting `em at big moments.
Bachynski preserved Arizona State’s victory over Marquette in November and did the same thing against Oregon last week.
He came up big, so to speak, again in Arizona State’s biggest game of the season, reaching out to block T.J. McConnell’s potential game-winning drive with six seconds left, a play that led to Carson’s breakaway dunk at the other end.
”That’s what I do. That’s what I love doing and that’s what I’m good at,” said Bachynski, who had 13 points, eight blocked shots and seven rebounds.
The Sun Devils’ signature win puts them in great position for an NCAA bid.
Of course, it won’t do them any good if they stumble down the stretch.
Arizona State has road games against Utah and Colorado next week and four more after that before the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.
”We can’t let this win get to our head,” Bachynski said. ”As great as it feels right now and as much fun as it was winning, we have to keep our eyes on the prize.”