Arizona improved to 16-2 on Thursday night with a 91-75 win over rival Arizona State. Here’s a closer look at what happened.
Player of the Game:
Lauri Markkanen - The freshman big man had a career night against the Sun Devils. Markkanen finished with a career-high 30 points, making 12 of his 18 shots in the game. Lauri didn't quite get a double-double, but pulled down eight rebounds. The freshman has been playing within Arizona's offense for a majority of the season, but tonight Markkanen seemed to really look for his shot whenever he got the chance. With that being said, he didn't take any bad shots and didn't turn the ball over.
* Arizona started the game on fire, making four of its first six shots. Dusan Ristic got things going with an easy shot from the block followed by a Kobi Simmons long ball. Markkanen picked up his first points of the game and then Ristic added a put back as the Wildcats jumped out to a 9-0 lead over the Sun Devils.
* The lead continued to grow for Arizona for a few minutes, but Arizona State's offense wouldn't stay quiet for long. The Sun Devils cut into the lead with two free throws from Tra Holder cutting Arizona's lead to just eight. Markkanen took matters into his own hands and hit three straight shots from deep, extending the Wildcat lead to 29-12.
* As the clock began to tick closer to reading all zeroes, Arizona was holding onto a 16-point lead. With just under a minute left, Markkanen hit his fourth three-pointer of the night to cap his 30-point night. It was the exclamation mark on a big rivalry win for the Wildcats.
This game turned out to be a reiteration of what everyone already knew about both teams. Arizona is extremely athletic and active on defense. Arizona State is the opposite. There were plays that the Sun Devils barely had any interest in playing defense. To add to that, ASU's offense (while they are quite good at it) consists of just jacking up threes half of the time. One of those wins you games consistently, one of those doesn't.
As much as Arizona fans dislike Bobby Hurley, the Sun Devils Head Coach has loudly pumped energy into the rivalry between the two state schools. For much of the time in the last few seasons under Herb Sendek, the in-state rivalry lacked emotion and tenacity. On Thursday night, Hurley got a technical just for stepping on the court too far. His reputation preceeded him. It is yet to be seen how good of a coach Hurley will be in Tempe, but he has certainly made Arizona-Arizona state games more exciting.
Sean Miller Quotable:
"If you have 25 assists, a lot of great things happened," Miller said.
"The coaches express a lot in practice to share the ball from one side to the second side and third side," Allen said. "I feel like once we get the ball to that fourth side we are a very good team and it is hard to defend us. We have great players, so we just move the ball until we get a great shot."