The seventh-ranked Arizona Wildcats close out a three-game road trip on Saturday afternoon, as they take on rival Arizona State in a key Pac-12 battle at the Wells Fargo Center.
Sean Miller's Wildcats are an impressive 15-1 on the season, but the one blemish took place last week against Oregon in Eugene. The team was able to get some distance between itself and that loss, posting an 80-70 win at Oregon State two days later. With the win over the Beavers, Arizona is now 3-1 in conference play, looking up at a few undefeated squads.
Herb Sendek's Sun Devils are certainly capable of playing for the conference crown this season, coming into this contest at an impressive 14-3 overall. Arizona State also suffered a setback at Oregon (68-65) last week, halting a six-game win streak. The Sun Devils are also 3-1 in league play and 11-1 at home this season.
This marks the 223rd all-time meeting in this longstanding rivalry. The Wildcats own a 142-80 series advantage. Arizona State has won seven of the last 11 meetings in the series, including the final meeting last year in Tempe (87-80).
A 15-4 run spanning the end of the first half and the beginning of the second provided the Wildcats with the necessary breathing room to capture a 10-point win over Oregon State in Corvallis. Arizona connected on 47.5 percent from the floor overall and hit 10 3-pointers in the game. Four Wildcats notched double figures in the win, led by Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill with 16 points apiece. Nick Johnson and Brandon Ashley played vital roles as well, chipping in with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
Arizona can win games at either end of the floor, depending on what the opposition does. The Wildcats are shooting a solid. 463 overall, which has led to a steady 76.1 ppg. UA is also enjoying a +9.6 rebounding edge and is holding opponents to a mere 61.9 ppg. Three of the five starters are averaging double-figure scoring, led by Lyons' 14.6 ppg. Hill (13.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Johnson (12.3 ppg) follow close behind.
The Sun Devils employ a balanced attack with strong playmaking ability in the backcourt and a dominant low post presence as well. Freshman guard Jahii Carson has made an immediate impact in Tempe this season, showing the ability to both score at will (17.1 ppg) and get others involved (5.2 apg). The 5- foot-10 youngster has converted more free throws (75) than anyone else on the team has even attempted. Senior forward Carrick Felix (15.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and junior center Jordan Bachynski (10.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg) are a formidable duo up front. A 7-footer, Bachynski is one of the nation's premier shot-blockers, leading the Pac-12 and ranking third nationally with 4.5 blocks per game.
Carson led all scorers with 20 points, while Evan Gordon poured in 17, but it wasn't enough, as ASU dropped a 3-point decision to the red-hot Ducks last weekend. Felix was able to post 12 points in the loss, but Bachynski was held in check for the most part, finishing with eight points, six rebounds and three blocks. Oregon was able to hold a slight edge on the boards overall (32-29) and outscored the Sun Devils at the free-throw line, 14-5.