Horne burns Sun Devils

Alan Walsh/Arizona Daily Wildcat

Alan Walsh

Alan Walsh/Arizona Daily Wildcat

Kevin Zimmerman

The ASU men’s basketball team had Sparky the Sun Devil on its side during its loss to Arizona Saturday night, but the Wildcats had their own spark on the court of Wells Fargo Arena.

After sitting out the majority of the first half with an ankle injury, forward Jamelle Horne was more than a fire-starter in the second half.

He was Arizona’s blowtorch.

“”I tried to tell him anything I could to get him ready to play. Jamelle is talented, he’s important,”” head coach Sean Miller said after the game. “”Jamelle Horne’s play in the second half, I thought, really inspired me as his coach.””

During the first half against ASU, Arizona fell behind by double digits while Horne sat on the bench. He only played five minutes in the half, leaving the game after tweaking an ankle, which has been troublesome since the Wildcat’s Dec. 12, 2009, game against San Diego State University.

“”Plantar (plantaris) longus, as you would call it in doctor terms,”” Horne said jokingly.

Horne, Arizona’s only veteran besides senior point guard Nic Wise, missed two shots and pulled down one rebound in five first-half minutes. 

With Horne sidelined, Arizona’s offense struggled. The Wildcats scored 25 first-half points while failing to push the tempo and lacking the energy they needed to take advantage of what ASU head coach Herb Sendek later called an “”ineptitude on offense.””

With the Wildcats’ igniter on the bench, Miller told Horne he had a decision to make.

“”Coach took me out, sat me down … told me if I was going to go then he was going to play me, if not then I was going to sit,”” Horne said. “”Little bit too much importance. I’m a junior, I’m a big dog, so you know (I) fought through it.””

Freshman Solomon Hill started the second half in place of the injured forward but was soon replaced by Horne.

Then, Arizona’s anemic offense from the first half was set ablaze.

Standing on the right wing, Horne found freshman forward Derrick Williams open in the middle of the lane with just less than 18 minutes to play. Williams threw down an emphatic, two-handed dunk to tie the game at 29 points apiece, and Arizona reeled off another nine points before another ASU score.

“”I thought early, he let a couple of his missed shots affect him,”” Miller said of Horne’s first half, not mentioning his injury. “”But to his credit, and it’s hard to do, (Horne) came out in the second half and played well.””

The 6-foot-7 forward finished the evening with 11 points after hitting 3-for-4 from behind the 3-point line and capping off the evening with a wide-open dunk in the final minutes of the game. Though he only played 22 minutes, Horne rekindled the Wildcats’ energy when the momentum could have gone either way.

It’s not the statistics that pleased Miller. Arizona’s head coach had said it before the season began:

“”He can play a great game and not score any points,”” Miller said.

Saturday night, Horne didn’t single-handedly light up the scoreboard.

He did, however, ignite a 52-point, second-half fire that burned the previously-hot Sun Devils.