Hill scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds to help Arizona (14-5, 5-4 Pac-10) beat their in-state rivals for the 23rd time in the teams' last 24 meetings. Hill's play seemed to inspire other Wildcats who have been struggling of late.
Jawann McClellan broke out of his scoring funk with 14 points. More importantly, he snapped a 0 for 16 shooting slump from behind the arc by knocking down 4 of 7 three point attempts. His first three point shot came with 6:28 to play in the first half that gave the Wildcats the lead 20-18. He followed that shot with another one from about 25-feet nearly four minutes later to extend Arizona's lead to 29-23. He then closed out the first half with a three-ball from the right corner as time expired.
The Wildcats took a 37-26 lead into the locker room and never looked back.
Arizona State (6-14, 0-9 Pac-10) came into the game last in the Pac-10 in both scoring (61.1 PPG) and field goal percentage (42.2). Tonight's game did little more than cement the Sun Devils' place in the conference cellar.
Arizona State shot 34.7 percent from the field and was held to their second lowest point total of the season.
The Wildcats used a 2-3 zone most of the night to stifle Jeff Pendergraph, holding the talented sophomore to a season-low five points (2-6 FGS). Without Pendergraph filling up the box score the Sun Devils had little hope for a victory and as the game progressed, Arizona continued to slowly pull away.
Arizona was led by Chase Budinger who was named the player of the game. Budinger finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds in 35 minutes. Budinger scored inside and outside, making all seven of his free throw attempts while regaining his touch from mid range.
The shot of the night for Budinger came in the second half with 9:10 to play. Budinger took a pass on the wing, drove baseline and pulled up from 15 feet. He knocked down the shot but more importantly demonstrated good form and elevation. For a player who has recently commented about being a bit tired from the rigors of the season, Budinger looked fresh all night long.
Up next for Arizona is an out of conference match up with fourth-ranked North Carolina. The Tar Heels destroyed Wake Forest in Winston Salem 88-60. North Carolina shot 56.9 percent from the field for the game and knocked down 7 three pointers in routing the Demon Deacons.
It'll be an early morning, nationally televised tip-off with the winner getting a tremendous boost to their NCAA Tournament resume. Before we breakdown Saturday contest though let's take a quick peak at the good, the bad and the ugly of tonight's win over Arizona State.
The suspension of Williams gave Hill the start and Fire made the most of it. He was one rebound shy of a double-double but when you toss in his two blocked shots and one charge, I'm giving him an honorary double-double. Hill wasn't the only story though. Budinger played very well in all phases of the game. He moved well without the ball and was rewarded for his hustle. He also did a good job in moving to the high post to help break down ASU's 2-3 zone. His 10 rebounds were more valuable then his 21 points but when you put them both together you get much deserved player of the game honors. McClellan stroking threes was probably the biggest sight for sore eyes though. When he's on he is so fun to watch because his energy is all-consuming. Shakur again had seven assists but did not have his best game from the floor, scoring only eight points. Still, tonight belonged to Hill, Budinger and McClellan and for Arizona fans their stellar play was a warm welcome in what has so far been a somewhat chilling January.
Williams serving a one-game suspension for violating unspecified team rules is not good. Don't read into this anymore that you should because Williams is cleared to play Saturday. The good in all of this is that Lute Olson has proved yet again that no single player is bigger than the program. Hopefully Williams has learned from this experience and will come out with something to prove against North Carolina. It was reported during the second half that Mohammed Tangara was taken from the stadium to a nearby hospital after being struck in the head by an elbow. Prior to his injury, Tangara was playing very well in a supporting role. He took a charge, scored two points and had two rebounds in only five minutes of play.
After snapping a three-game losing streak, nothing in this game seemed ugly. Arizona State did do a fine job in controlling the game's tempo for the first 15 minutes of the game. Arizona remained patient though and after the Sun Devils tied the score 20-20 with 5:25 to play, the Wildcats went on a 17-6 run to take a nine point lead into the locker room. The most impressive statistic of the night is this: 18 turnover (nine for Arizona and nine for Arizona State). Although the winning margin was 24 points, there's absolutely nothing ugly about a game in which both teams have only nine turnovers apiece.