Arizona Preview

From here on out, every game played will carry a fair amount of significance for the Sun Devils. The Arizona State Sun Devils (20-5, 9-4) have in all likelihood assured an NCAA tournaments berth. When they play host to their rivals from Tucson, the Arizona Wildcats (18-8, 8-5), on Sunday night at Wells Fargo Arena, the maroon and gold know that a win keeps them strong in the Pac-10 title hunt.

The Sun Devils enter the game on a roll with four straight victories including a resounding weekend sweep of UCLA and USC just a week ago at home. The weekend started with one of the biggest wins in school history and easily the biggest since Herb Sendek was named head coach as the Devils beat the Bruins 74-67 in prime time ESPN contest.

Led by a balanced scoring attack in which five players scored in double digits highlighted by James Harden with 15 points and a career-high 11 assists. UCLA was led by Josh Shipp with 16 points. The weekend ended in style as the Sun Devils beat the USC Trojans 65-53 in a physical matchup. Derek Glasser scored a career-high 18 points to lead ASU while USC was led by DeMar Derozan with 16 points.

The Wildcats are arguably the hottest team in the country with seven consecutive wins under their belt and an attacking offense that never lets up. The Wildcats also swept the Los Angeles schools and did it in style. In the weekend opener, the Cats and Trojans went back and forth in a heated shootout that included a handful of lead changes and momentum swings.

Nic Wise scored 27 points and Chase Budinger had 25 in the winning effort. The Trojans had three players with more than 20 points; Dwight Lewis, Derozan, and Daniel Hackett. Against UCLA, the Wildcats came out firing and were in control from start to finish. Wise capped off a great weekend with 26 more points to go along with Jordan Hill's 22 points and 13 boards. Darren Collison and Shipp were the only Bruins in double-digits with 26 and 18 respectively.

Head Coach – Russ Pennell

Projected Starters

G – Nic Wise – (14.0 PPG, 4.6 APG)
G – Kyle Fogg – (6.3 PPG, 38 % 3PT)
G – Chase Budinger – (18.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG)
F – Jamelle Horne – (6.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG)
F – Jordan Hill – (18.2 PPG, 11.3 RPG)

Impact Reserves

G – Zane Johnson
G – Brendan Lavender
F – Alex Jacobson

Recent Matchups

Historically, it's not close but I'm a firm believer in the concept of what have you done for me lately? The Sun Devils have won three straight games over the hated Wildcats including a sloppy 53-47 win in Tucson earlier this season. James Harden scored 21 points while Jeff Pendergraph doubled up with 11 points and 14 rebounds to lead ASU. Jordan Hill led Arizona with 16 points and 15 boards but was called for an illegal screen in the closing seconds that sealed the win for the Devils.

Key Stat

9-1. The Wildcats are 9-1 when someone not named Wise, Budinger, or Hill scores at ten least points. They are just 9-8 when just those three do it. The Sun Devils' tough matchup zone has flustered many opponents since Sendek took the helm but it does allow for some open three-point looks. The Devils will have to be careful not to let Kyle Fogg or Zane Johnson take advantage of those opportunities.

When the Sun Devils have the ball

For the Sun Devils to feel comfortable on offense, Harden and Pendergraph need to obviously get theirs. Harden will penetrate and create scoring opportunities not just for himself, but for everyone on the floor. Pendergraph needs to play straight up and attack the rim. If those two can do what they are capable of – it makes life a lot easier for starters Glasser, Ty Abbott, Rihards Kuksiks, and reserve Jamelle McMillan to get open looks and knock down some shots.

When the Wildcats have the ball

Arizona's Big Three of Budinger, Hill, and Wise will comprise of most of the offense the team generates but like ASU, if the other guys on the floor start making some shots, it will make the offense that much tougher to defend. Lately, Wise has been playing out of his mind and Hill had a big game in the last matchup between the two teams but the key player will be Budinger. Gifted with extraordinary talent, Budinger has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor and has a knack for hitting big shots. He will surely want to reverse his latest trend of offensive struggle against his team's rival.


The game will feature two of the best interior players in the conference in Pendergraph and Hill but the important player to watch is Eric Boateng off the bench for the Devils. If Pendergraph gets in foul trouble or just needs a breather, Boateng needs to contribute on both ends in order to hold the advantage. Hill is too good and too strong to give up easy points to – Boateng needs to be aggressive and make Pendergraph's absence as insignificant as possible.

Who will win and why? Not only is this a match up of two teams that are currently playing fantastic basketball, it's also one of the biggest rivalries in the country. The Sun Devils have the edge because of the home crowd and a defense that has frustrated the Wildcats over the last couple seasons. It will be a tight ballgame but ASU will ultimately control the tempo and keep UofA's electric offense at bay.

Final Score – Arizona State 62 Arizona 57

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