Devils Outlast Cats in Overtime Win

ASU entered its home game against Arizona as a rare favorite. Thus, perhaps their 64-59 victory shouldn't come as a surprise. Nonetheless, achieving a rare win in a lopsided series, after trailing for approximately 36 minutes in regulation, was a revelation that most of the 13,947 sellout crowd at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe didn't expect to see. ASU's grittiness and resiliency was on full display.

"Both teams played really hard," said Head Coach Herb Sendek. "There were no losers tonight. That game could have gone either way…we were fortunate to win it. It wasn't necessarily artistic, it wasn't always free flowing. Probably both teams missed some shots that they normally make. But there was a lot of heart out there by both teams."

Tonight's game started as many others in this series, as Arizona State (13-2, 3-0 Pac-10) looked shell shocked for the first ten minutes of the contest. Their only lead during regulation time was 4-2 at the 17:15 mark, and proceeded to go scoreless for the next seven plus minutes. Yet, luckily for the hosts, Arizona (10-5, 1-2), who was missing the injured Jerryd Bayless, didn't fair a whole lot better and had just an 11-4 lead with 11:50 to go in the half, with Chase Budinger scoring all of his nine first half points during that period.

Jawann McClellan's three-point shot made it an 18-8 game at the 6:09 mark. With Ty Abbott saddled with three fouls and James Harden scoring just four points in the half, ASU's got an unexpected and valuable bench contribution from Antwi Atuahene. The senior scored six points in the first half, and helped the Sun Devils from being run out of the arena early in the game.

After trailing 21-10 with just over five and half minutes in the first stanza, ASU scored 11 points the rest of half, capped off by a Christian Polk shot behind the arc, to bring down the deficit to 28-21 at halftime.

In the first few minutes of the second half, both the team's big men, Arizona's Jordan Hill and ASU's Jeff Pendergraph each pick up their third foul. The Cats led 36-26 at the 15:46 mark, but a brief scoring drought, coupled with some fine play by Harden, saw the maroon and gold trail just 36-34 with 12:38 left in the game.

Abbot's three pointer at the 8:42 mark saw Arizona hold just a slim 42-41 edge. The Cats kept on holding off the Devils, and McClellan's three-point play put his team ahead 55-50 with 1:53 remaining the game. ASU's defense forced a turnover that was sandwiched between an Abbott shot from downtown and a game-tying lay-up by Harden with just over a minute remaining in regulation.

In overtime Harden scored seven of his team's nine points, as the Sun Devil defense limited Arizona to 2-7 from the field in the five minute period. Pendergraph iced the game with a pair of free throws and two seconds later the buzzer sounded and signaled the beginning of the pandemonium on the Ned Wulk court as the ASU students rushed the floor in jubilation.

"We knew this kind of game was gonna be a war," said Pendergraph. "We knew this game was gonna come down to the wire. We weren't gonna beat them by 20 and they weren't gonna beat us by 20…we toughed it out and got it."

"Crunch time came and we never folded. We came through, we got tough, we got the rebounds we needed, we got the stops we needed, we got the buckets we needed…these guys just played their hearts out and earned this win tonight."

The 3-0 start in Pac-10 play is just the third in the school's 30 years of Pac-10 play and this mark was last achieved in the 1987-88 season.

Harden scored 22 of the game high's 26 points in the second half and overtime, and had a team-high nine rebounds. Pendergraph was the only other ASU player in double figures with 14 points and was a perfect 6-6 from the charity stripe. Derek Gasser had four assists and no turnovers for ASU. Jordan Hill scored 14 of his points in the second stanza and extra frame, and paced the visitors with 18.

Arizona State once again struggled from long distance converting just 4-16 shots, and overall tallied a 39.6% shooting from the field. They held Arizona to 38.9% from the floor and caused a great deal of the Cats' 16 turnovers. Arizona edged ASU on glass 35-34.

The Sun Devils will get much needed rest, as they play their next game, at Cal on Jan. 17th. This upcoming match up, which is ASU's Pac-10 road opener, will mark just their second true road contest of the current campaign.

For ASU to truly make this season one of the best in school's history, formidable performance away from Tempe will have to take place. They're likely will be fighting various elements on the road, and if their success on Wednesday night was any indication, this squad can take its opponent's best shot and still prevail at game's end.

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