The Sun Devils' inability to build on to that lead, in part due to poor free throw shooting, ultimately doomed them. The Wildcats went on a 9-0 run and the momentum permanently shifted from there on out.
"We missed a pair of free throws, a front end of a free throw," ASU Head Coach Herb Sendek said, "We had other opportunities in that stretch to score and we just didn't capitalize. Sometimes, you look at it if it's something we are doing or not doing, and I thought during that particular stretch we really had a chance to have a greater lead."
Ironically, all of the hosts' points came on free throws ever since holding that double digit lead, as ASU held on to a slim 27-25 lead at the half.
The second half opened with an offensive onslaught by the visitors who jumped to a 38-29 advantage at the 12:44 mark, mostly due to their efficiency in the paint. Arizona ended the game scoring 26 points in that part of the court. "Their penetration hurt us," Sendek admitted.
ASU was never able to match that offensive intensity. "The basket continued to be like a thimble for us," Sendek commented. "Eventually that took its toll and the floodgates opened on the other end as well. I always felt that we were climbing up a hill because of our ineptitude on offense. Give them credit; they played an outstanding game tonight."
With 8:03 remaining in the contest, Arizona led 49-38 and their lead never dipped into single digits the rest of the way. The Wildcats led by as many as 21 points in this stanza and sent many of the 13,966 in attendance home several minutes before the final buzzer.
"I thought Arizona was really good tonight and they really are a good team," Sendek commented. "We lost to a very very good basketball team tonight."
Kuksiks had 15 points to pace ASU, and Ty Abbott had 10 points and led all players on the floor with eight rebounds. The Sun Devils shot just 30.2 percent from the field, while the Wildcats converted 51.1 percent of their shots. The maroon and gold were just 17-29 from the charity stripe.
"Derrick Williams is a showcase premier freshman player," Sendek admitted. "He's very efficient on offense."
Even though the ASU stat sheet was far from being impressive, Sendek didn't feel that his squad's performance was a byproduct of lack of effort.
"We really wanted to win tonight," Sendek said. "Our guys didn't lose because they didn't try. We didn't play well, but they were really intent on trying their best tonight. We just didn't play very well. Arizona, not to take anything away from them, they were really good and would have beaten a lot of teams tonight."
The Sun Devils will naturally have to flush this performance and loss as quickly as possible out of their system, as they prepare to face conference leading Cal at home. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 on Thursday.