Devils Edge Cats in a Thriller

True to a typical rivalry game no lead was safe and no deficit was impossible to overcome. The Sun Devils led by as many as 17 points in the second half, but saw that large advantage evaporate. When the hosts regained their hot shooting beyond the arc, that's all it took to register a fourth straight win against Arizona, as ASU prevailed 70-68 in front of 14,123 in attendance.

ASU head coach Herb Sendek, who celebrated his 46h birthday on Sunday, quipped that he felt ten years older after this gut wrenching victory.

"Basketball in general is a game of runs," he said as he pointed to the MarylandNorth Carolina and DukeWake Forest games. "So it's not an anomaly. In the first half, we were able to take the lead because we were making shots. We went 10-16 from three in the first half.

"Then the tide turned and Arizona was making shots. In fact, I don't think they grazed the rim for a few minutes…from our standpoint, we weren't getting any shots dramatically different from the first half, we just missed them."

Arizona State (21-5, 10-4 Pac-10) didn't lead by more than five points for the first 16 minutes of the contest. Jamelle McMillan scored nine points off the bench, a trio of long range baskets, to give the maroon and gold a 25-21 lead with six minutes left in the half.

Three straight three pointers by Rihards Kuksiks, helped the Sun Devils go down to the locker room with a 44-34 lead.

ASU was scoreless for nearly the first four minutes of the second half, but Arizona (18-9, 8-6) couldn't take advantage of their opponent's cold streak, at least not initially.

The Devils led 54-37 at the 13:49 mark, and then saw the Wildcats go on a 25-6 run that that gave the visitors a 62-60 edge with 4:14 remaining in the game.

Two three pointers by Rihards Kuksiks in the last two minutes of the contest awarded ASU a 68-66 lead with 1:16 remaining.

"Those two shots he (Kuksiks) made in the end were life savers for us," he said. "…if he's open we want them to take it. Usually we don't have to twist his arm to do that."

Jordan Hill tied the game 21 seconds later, but his foul on Jeff Pendergraph allowed the senior to sink in his two charity stripe shots and scores the last points of the night.

Hill and Zane Johnson missed layups, and Pendergraph grabbed the carom and passed to Derek Glasser who was fouled with six seconds left. The point guard missed the front end of the one and one, but helped halt a streaking Nic Wise from bringing the ball up the court and setting up for a possible tying or winning shot.

The four-game winning streak over Arizona is the longest one ASU has enjoyed since 1983.

James Harden led three Sun Devils in double figures with 18 points and tied a team-high five assists (with Ty Abbott). Kuksiks had 17, and was 5-10 from three-point territory. Pendergraph recorded a double double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, the later stat leading all players on the floor. The senior also had a game-high three blocks.

Wise paced Arizona with 17 points.

ASU shot 53.3 percent from the field, and was 66.7 percent in the first half. It also recorded 20 assists. The Sun Devils committed 16 turnovers and gave up 11 offensive boards, but led the battle of the glass 31-29.

Up next for ASU is a battle for the Pac-10 lead, as they travel to Seattle on Thursday to face Washington, a team they trail by just a half a game in the conference standings. This game will no be easier than the Arizona one, to say the least.

"We have an incredibly tough weekend ahead of us," Sendek said. "The Pac-10 is really good. The nation and everyone needs to know that. It's really good. They're all good teams in our league."


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