Scouting Report: Avenging the Fluke

ASU won the first time around in Tempe. Don't expect the same result Wednesday night on Lute Olson court. Jason Gardner's hot shooting and Luke Walton's all-around brilliance, along with improved efforts out of Channing Frye and Rick Anderson, will be plenty for Arizona to make ASU pay for its insolence of a month ago.

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Arizona (17-8; 10-5) vs. ASU (who cares?)
Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. MST in McKale Center.
The Series: Arizona leads 126-73 dating back to 1914, including winning 12 of the last 13 meetings.

A month ago in Tempe, ASU ended what was a 12-game losing streak to Arizona with an impressive 88-72 victory over the rival Wildcats. The Sun Devils were led by senior center Chad Prewitt, junior college transfer Curtis Millage and junior enigma Tommy Smith, who shocked the viewing audience by NOT fouling out. But to make a long story short, ASU dominated Arizona in every phase of the game and has since played pretty well if you consider that it has gone 3-3 after beating the Wildcats.

What Arizona had trouble with the first time around in Tempe was that it couldn't stop Millage and freshman point guard Jason Braxton from penetrating into the lane for easy jumpers or even dunks. Smith had success driving to the hole also. The penetration ASU was able to get freed up Millage and Prewitt on the perimeter for wide open three-pointers and that was the undoing for Arizona that night.

Throw in the fact that Jason Gardner, Channing Frye, Salim Stoudamire and Rick Anderson didn't play well at all, and you have an easy explanation for how ASU won by 16 points. In fact, other than Luke Walton, no Wildcat looked like he came ready to play.

Oh how that will that change on Wednesday night.

What ASU did was get Arizona's attention. If the Cats were looking past ASU to Connecticut and then to the Bay Area road trip the week after, they most definitely are not doing the same now.

Chad Prewitt talked after the first game about being part of the first senior class to beat Arizona in quite a while. He was very excited about it. In the other locker room, guys like Luke Walton and Ricky Anderson, who have been in the Wildcat program for four years, talked about the embarrassment of losing to an ASU team for the first time in six years.

Arizona will not be looking past this Sun Devil team on Wednesday night. ASU has had a month of state bragging rights and you can bet that the Arizona guys think that's about enough for the next, oh, five, ten years. ASU was dominant in every way a month ago but can it prove its mettle by winning on the road in McKale, where the Sun Devils have won exactly ONCE since Ronald Reagan's first term as President?

I'm thinking that Jason Gardner and Luke Walton aren't going to let that happen. Man, losing to the Sun Devils…in basketball?! Don't get used to it.

The Match-ups: PG-Jason Gardner (5-10, 185 Jr.) vs. Jason Braxton (6-3, 180 Fr.)
*Gardner played poorly in Tempe while Braxton played very well. Gardner has been red hot lately and is peaking at the perfect time heading into the Tournament. With Gardner's shot going down like it has lately, there probably aren't five better players in America and certainly not Braxton. Gardner stays hot and puts on a show.
-EDGE: Gardner (Arizona) Huge.

SG-Salim Stoudamire (6-1, 180 Fr.) vs. Curtis Millage (6-2, 185 Jr.)
*Millage has been playing pretty well of late, especially since the start of Pac-10 play. He really took it to Arizona in the first meeting and it is likely that Stoudamire remembers that and won't want it to happen again. Millage will hit some threes and so will Salim but Salim is the better all-around player and he's at home, where he has been on fire shooting the ball since Pac-10 play began. Stoudamire will elevate his defensive tenacity a notch and show Millage that the first time was a fluke.
-EDGE: Stoudamire (Arizona)

SF-Luke Walton (6-8, 235 Jr.) vs. Kenny Crandall (6-4, 200 Soph.)
*This is the biggest advantage for Arizona all night. Walton has a distinct size advantage and will use it to Arizona's benefit by taking Crandall into the post for easy turnarounds and/or baby-hooks from the block. In Tempe, Walton was the best player on the court. He scored a game-high 26 points while also grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out six assists even though ASU head coach Rob Evans said that his game plan centered around stopping Walton first and foremost. Expect more of the same from Luke Wednesday night but this time throw in a couple threes for good measure. His shot is coming around and that's a scary thought.
-EDGE: Walton (Arizona)

PF-Ricky Anderson (6-9, 220 Jr.) vs. Tommy Smith (6-9, 210 Jr.)
*I like Smith a lot as a player (when he's in the game) but all too often his athleticism and skill (potential skill anyway) aren't on the floor because he just pushed someone out of bounds or slapped someone's arm from three feet away. If Smith avoids foul trouble (big "if"), he is ASU's best player. Anderson played really badly at ASU last month, scoring only six points and grabbing four rebounds while Smith put on a show. Even if Smith duplicates his performance, it is highly unlikely that Anderson will.
-EDGE: Push

C-Channing Frye (6-11, 225 Fr.) vs. Chad Prewitt (6-9, 240 Sr.)
*Prewitt, because of his consistency, is ASU's best and most reliable player. He leads the team in scoring and rebounding and is the heart and soul of the team as well. Prewitt always plays well against Arizona (he was outstanding against the Cats in Tempe) and this game should be no different. Channing Frye has had trouble against the more aggressive and more physical big men in conference play and he was not on his game against Prewitt the first time they met (six points, four boards, fouled out). Expect Frye to reemerge against the Sun Devils this time and to make his presence felt early by altering shots on the inside on defense. For Arizona to be a good team (and to really beat the Sun Devils), Frye has to assert himself more on the glass.
-EDGE: Prewitt (ASU)

Prediction: Arizona 93, ASU 75.

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