Arizona pulls away from ASU in Pac-10 opener

Arizona opened the Pac-10 season with a spirited 97-79 victory over feisty ASU at McKale Center. The UA's stifling defense frustrated Arizona State during key small stretches once each half, as Arizona won its 19th of 20 meetings with Arizona State.

ASU used a pair of offensive rebounds and a steal in the open court to build a brief 6-2 lead, but the UA bounced back with pressure of its own. After Mustafa Shakur hit a three, Ivan Radenovic, starting in place of Isaiah Fox, recorded a steal and converted a three-point play. However, ASU was up to the challenge early. Ike Diogu finished a dunk in the open floor and then buried a three-pointer from the top of the key as Arizona State captured an 11-8 advantage.

Radenovic was hot again early. He scored seven of the UA's first 14 points, but the Diogu/Serge Angenou combination was more than comparable in the early going. Each made a living off mid-range jumpers. Diogu was a defensive presence as well with two blocked shots on Channing Frye inside efforts.

ASU was also successful raining threes. Kevin Kruger buried three en route to a 27-18 lead, but Arizona got a steal, a Frye bucket and two free throws on an intentional foul to trim the lead to 27-22. Frye added a little hook on the same possession, and the UA got back in the game one sequence.

Chris Rodgers kept Arizona in the mix in the first half. He got to the foul line on penetration, and down 30-26, drained a pair of free throws after an offensive rebound. Rodgers also hit a five-footer over Diogu to cut the Sun Devil advantage to 32-30 with 7:30 left in the first half. A Shakur breakaway dunk trimmed the Devil lead to one, and then his third three of the game put Arizona on top. It was a lead the home team would not relinquish.

ASU went ice cold from the field as the half wound down, but stayed close at the foul line. Shakur converted a driving layup at the buzzer as the UA went to the locker room up 46-41.

The Wildcats built a brief 10-point lead early in the second half, and then stemmed a small ASU push when Shakur touched twine from long-range for his fourth three-pointer and 20th point. Arizona State kept fighting, and converted three straight baskets and a free throw to narrow the Wildcat advantage to 56-52.

And then Arizona exerted dominance.

Frye kept giving Arizona breathing room. The UA went to the senior center with regularity on the inside, and he answered. At one point, Frye hit eight straight Arizona points. Stoudamire hit a three with the shot clock winding down on a frenetic possession that built the UA margin to 67-58 with 10 minutes left.

From there Arizona started to pull away. Rodgers benefited from a goaltend call, and Stoudamire added a deep three for a 74-63 lead, part of 15 second-half points. Hassan Adams added an offensive rebound and putback to increase the lead to 13, and from there it snowballed.

ASU, which shot over 50 percent in the first half, was limited to well under 40 over the final 20 minutes.

Diogu finished with a double-double and six blocks, but struggled from the foul line and managed just 12 shots from the field in enduring the UA's relentless wall of inside players.

The Wildcats, winners of eight straight, travel to the Bay Area for conference matchups Thursday and Saturday.


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