Devils Drop Close Decision to Archrival

The Sun Devils' marketing slogan going into the rivalry game was ‘Dare to Believe.' Not only did the maroon the gold have faith in their abilities, they came oh so close to pulling out the upset. Lack of execution down the stretch couldn't compensate for the ever familiar heart and desire shown by ASU in recent weeks. When the final buzzer sounded The Cats escaped with a 61-58 victory in Tempe.

"A great atmosphere for college basketball in the valley today," said Head Coach Herb Sendek in reference to the 13,244 in attendance at Wells Fargo Arena. "…I thought our guys gave phenomenal effort. I really do. I couldn't be more proud and more pleased with the fortitude, the hustle, the heart and the grit they displayed for 40 minutes. A key turning point of the game, was just under four minutes, there was a series of plays where I don't know if we made the best decisions. That allowed Arizona to creep up to nine points…aside from that I though the effort was terrific."

In a gesture to its four outgoing seniors playing their last home game, Sendek started an all-senior lineup of Serge Angounou, Allen Morill, Bruno Claudino and Robby Aldridge, along with normal point guard starter Derek Glasser. Three of the four seniors were taken out after 34 seconds, but even with its regular lineup Arizona State (7-20, 1-15) struggled against Arizona (18-9, 9-7) and found itself staring at a double-digit deficit, 12-2, at the 16:06 mark, in large part to the three-point shooting of Marcus Williams. Behind the hustle of Antwi Atuahene, the home team brought down the deficit to 14-10 with 12:39 left in the half. An 8-2 spurt by the visitors gave them once again a ten point lead, 22-12 at the 8:39 mark. The resilient Sun Devils answered with a 16-6 run, which was caped off by Jerren Shipp's three-point basket and tied the game at 28-28 with just over two minutes left in the first period. A Christian Polk basket beyond the arc gave ASU a 31-30 edge at half time.

Arizona claimed back the lead, 34-33 with just over a minute and half into the second period, and held on that advantage the rest of the way. Chase Budinger helped the Wildcats increase their lead to 45-37 at the 13:23 mark, but once again the maroon and gold fought back and cut down the lead to 47-46 with 9:51 left in the game. The Devils didn't let the lead increase significantly until the 3:09 mark of the second half, a moment which probably sealed the outcome.

At that point Jeff Pendergraph committed an intentional foul on Williams who drained his two free throws. The Cats retained possession; Budinger was fouled and made good on his own pair of charity stripe shots, which had ASU down 58-49. Back-to-back long range baskets by Derek Glasser and Christian Polk made it a one-possession game, 58-55 with 1:38 left. Ivan Radenovic missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation, but the Sun Devils aren't able to convert on offense, and send the Cats to another trip to the free throw line. Bret Brielmaier makes good on one shot with seven seconds left to give his team a 59-55 lead.

A desperation shot beyond the arc by Glasser with three seconds left in the game draws contact from Williams, and sends the ASU freshman to the free throw line for three attempts. He makes good on all of them, but unfortunately he meant to miss the last one to give his team a chance for a tip-in which would extend the contest into overtime. Down 59-58 the Devils ran out of time for any chance to tie or tilt the score their way, as they see Budinger score the last two points of the game on his pair of free throws.

Polk led ASU with 18 points. Angounou, who went over to the student section to thank the crowd after the game, chipped in with a double-double of 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. He was also 4-8 from three point range in his last home game. Pendergraph had 13 points and was the third and last ASU player in double figures. Budinger paced all scorers with 23 and Williams had 19 for the visitors from Tucson. Arizona shot a 48.8% clip from the field, compared to ASU's 37.7%. The Sun Devils were able to keep matters close on Sunday thanks to 33-28 edge on the boards, including 15 offensive rebounds, and were 10-30 from three-point range.

"We're very consistent in the feedback we give our men," said Sendek at the end of his post-game press conference. "We tell them what we did well; we tell them what we need to work on to improve. We give them unconditional love and at the same time we're demanding as heck…our guys battled like crazy against a heck of a basketball team."

ASU will close out the season with a trip to the Bay Area where they'll face Stanford on Thursday and Cal on Saturday.

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