"They had early runs and we had late runs," said ASU head coach Rob Evans who is now just 1-14 versus the Wildcats.
In Arizona's 18-point victory in McKale Center, Wildcat point guard Mustafa Shakur turned in one of his better offensive outings of the season. He continued that in the early stages with a pair of buckets—one a jumper, the other a drive to the glass—as part of the UA's early 22-4 onslaught. Ivan Radenovic was instrumental in the telling run as well. He found Channing Frye with a beautiful seal pass that led to a dunk, drained a three and dished an assist to a streaking Stoudamire on the break. Stoudamire added a deep three as part of a 14-0 outburst.
"We just weren't executing," Ike Diogu said. "It wasn't anything they were doing defensively."
The Wildcats' 1-3-1 defense forced ASU into one field goal in seven minutes and nine attempts. Meanwhile, the road team converted nine of its first 15 shots.
The next eight minutes told a different story. ASU settled down and whittled the Wildcat lead to 25-19 until a driving Shakur layup put a brief stop to the run. When Ike Diogu hit a spinning jumper from eight-feet away for his 10th point of the afternoon the Sun Devil deficit was 27-23. In the comeback, Arizona State found openings in the UA's zone while Arizona turned the ball over five times.
Kevin Kruger hit a three with the shot and game clock running down, and ASU trimmed the advantage to 37-36 at the half. The UA scored just 15 points in the final 13 minutes of the first half. Pac-10 Player of the Year candidates Diogu and Stoudamire delivered, leading their respective teams in scoring.
Arizona started the second half in similar fashion to the first, and Hassan Adams was the focal point. The Wildcat junior, held scoreless and saddled with foul trouble, exploded for nine points in less than three minutes. He converted a thunderous dunk over Diogu, who was whistled for an intentional foul. Adams then converted one of two free throws and followed up the UA possession with an offensive tip as Arizona pushed its lead to 48-36.
Diogu picked up his fourth foul with 15:58 to go and ASU down 50-40. He returned at the 12-minute mark with the Devil deficit at 12. Frye collected his fourth foul shortly thereafter, and Arizona State hit the offensive glass in his absence to trail 58-50 with 9:43 to go.
The Sun Devils buried back-to-back threes, the latter by Diogu that capped a 13-0 run, and the Wildcat lead stood at two with 7:30 to go.
"It was a hard fought game," said Diogu who scored 25 points. "We had a solid week of practice and we really wanted to get this one."
Shakur found Adams for a reverse layup behind ASU's 1-2-2 zone, and Stoudamire had a chance to build the Wildcat lead to six, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Diogu twined a three to cut the lead to 60-59 with just over five minutes left. ASU captured a 61-60 lead with 4:30 to go to cap an 18-2 Sun Devil run. ASU missed a pair of 1-and1s, and Adams converted a tip-in to give the UA a one-point advantage, but Stevie Moore answered with a deep three as Arizona State led by two. Radenovic tied the game with three minutes left.
Adams got underneath the zone again, and Diogu was called for goaltending. Moore retrieved an offensive rebound and hit the fadeaway to tie the game with 1:18 left. Shakur got backdoor for a dunk off an assist from Frye, but Shakur committed a foul against Diogu on the other end, and the junior came through.
Stoudamire made two big plays. First, he got a hold of an offensive rebound that gave Arizona possession with the shot clock off. After a Wildcat timeout, the senior broke down Sun Devil single-coverage, and hit a fallaway from 15 with .04 seconds remaining.
"Salim loves taking the big shots," Lute Olson said.
"You can't play better defense than that," Evans said of Jason Braxton, the Sun Devil defender assigned to guard Stoudamire on that final possession. "He (Braxton) was in position, but he (Stoudamire) just made the shot."
Arizona shot just 42 percent from the floor. ASU converted just 37 percent of its attempts.
Diogu scored 25 points. Stoudamire had 22 points to lead the Wildcats, and Adams chipped in with 16 in the second half.