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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Sweep declined

Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

At first, it was a defensive battle of wills.

But just as ASU succumbed to Arizona’s tempo in the Wildcats’ January win in Tempe, the Wildcats succumbed to the hot shooting of Sun Devil guard Ty Abbott in Arizona’s 73-69 loss in McKale Center on Sunday.

“”Perimeter players on a lot of teams have hurt us, but his performance was terrific,”” UA head coach Sean Miller said of the ASU junior, who scored 28 points on 11-for-17 shooting. “”He moves without the ball, he’s smart. His team does a great job of getting him the ball.

“”They shoot a lot of jump shots,”” Miller added. “”Tonight they went in. That is very much the difference (from the last game).””

On a night when Miller said the Wildcats’ offensive performance was good enough to win, it was their defense that had Arizona miffed.

After slugging out the first half — neither team led by more than three points until Arizona (13-13, 7-7 Pacific 10 Conference) led 21-16 almost 13 minutes into the game — the Wildcats gave up nine straight points to ASU before the teams went into the locker room with a 30-25 Sun Devil advantage at the half.

That momentum stayed with ASU in the second half, in which Arizona allowed 67 percent shooting from the field.

The Wildcats struggled to keep in touch with the Sun Devils (19-8, 9-5), who seemingly had an answer for every Arizona comeback.

“”They just hit big shots,”” said UA forward Derrick Williams, who scored 15 points. “”Every time we cut it down to two or three, they come back and Abbott hit a 3-pointer or (Rihards) Kuksiks would hit a 3-pointer.””

And any time the Wildcats did make a play they couldn’t turn it into points.

At one point in the last minutes of the game, freshman guard Momo Jones stole an ASU pass and took it the length of the court, only to step on the baseline and give the ball back to the Sun Devils. Needing points down the stretch, guard Kyle Fogg fumbled the ball out of bounds, not giving himself or his teammates a chance to come from behind.

“”It’s real frustrating running up and down the court, over and over, and then you get a stop and throw the ball away, and give it right back to them,”” Williams said.

Those mistakes led to 12 Arizona turnovers, but Miller said it was what happened thereafter that made the difference.

“”Some of our mistakes that we made, they really made us pay,”” Miller said.

Those mistakes were something Miller thought his team had grown out of. He cited poor communication in transition defense as an example. At least twice, the Wildcats lost ASU players in transition, leaving Abbott and sharp-shooter Kuksiks open for 3-pointers. Kuksiks was ASU’s second leading scorer with 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting.

For Arizona, senior Nic Wise lost his final match-up with the Sun Devils but led the team by scoring 18 points. Freshman Kevin Parrom, who drew criticism for a hard foul on Abbott in the teams’ first meeting, grabbed 10 rebounds but ended the game on a sour note, getting into a tussle with ASU point guard Derek Glasser before Miller broke up the pair and sent Parrom to the locker room.

“”I love to see guys that are disappointed with a loss,”” said Miller, who later apologized to ASU. “”We don’t do anything other than that. I didn’t feel good about that.””

But the loss wasn’t for a lack of effort.

Miller said he was happy with the team’s energy coming off a distressing loss to Oregon State last week and a strong week of practice. With only four games remaining, the only way for the Wildcats to move on is to continue practicing with purpose.

“”It’s not about being young today,”” Miller said. “”We lost to the better team.””

 

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With the referees keeping close tabs on both teams in such a physical rivalry — especially after the Parrom foul on Abbott in January — the McKale Center crowd often went wild with disapproval.

Miller said that his team failed to adjust to how the officials were calling fouls and the crowd’s jeering might have gotten to his players.

Williams admitted that the Wildcats were sometimes frustrated with the calls.

“”It was kind of getting us frustrated (with the officials) not calling fouls and then all of a sudden calling ticky-tack fouls,”” he said.

   

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