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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Sun Devils suppress Wildcats

    The controversial foul call on Hill with 12.6 seconds left in the game, coupled with a technical on UA assistant coach Mike Dunlap effectively ended the Wildcats chances at earning the win.
    The controversial foul call on Hill with 12.6 seconds left in the game, coupled with a technical on UA assistant coach Mike Dunlap effectively ended the Wildcats chances at earning the win.

    No. 17 ASU 53, Arizona 47

    As the final buzzer sounded Wednesday night in McKale Center, ASU’s Jeff Pendergraph beamed an intimidating – yet accomplished – glare into the rafters while letting out a scream.

    It happened again.

    The suddenly all-too familiar scene erupted on Lute & Bobbi Olson Court, as another Arizona interim head coach watched the Sun Devils celebrate after yet another dramatic finish.

    The Wildcats, once again, showed a glaring inability to convert the big shot when needed. This time, a last-possession play never got a chance to develop.

    With 17.7 seconds left, the Wildcats – down by just two points – held possession and the opportunity to tie the game with a basket. Mere seconds after receiving the in-bounds pass, a driving Chase Budinger attempted to use a screen set by Jordan Hill near the free throw line.

    Hill got tangled up in the process, and was called for an offensive foul. After the call was made, UA associate head coach Mike Dunlap received a technical foul, giving ASU’s James Harden two free throws to ice the game.

    As the referees discussed Hill’s foul, the frustrated popping of Zona Zoo’s balloons sounded like shots that the displeased crowd verbally dished toward the referees.

    UA interim head coach Russ Pennell began his post-game press conference determined not to take any of his own shots at the officiating.

    “”I’m not talking about anything to do with officials, because I’ll say something that I’ll regret and get in trouble,”” Pennell said. “”The thing that disappointed me: we didn’t even get a chance to tie it. That was the disappointing part to me.””

    Added Budinger on the controversial whistle: “”One thing is, you can never blame a game on the ref. There’s so many intangibles during a game, before even a ref makes those kinds of calls. It’s tough being in those type of situations.””

    With the game tied at 40 and less than two minutes remaining, who couldn’t help but feel uneasy down the stretch. After all, the Wildcats already suffered three excruciating one-point losses this season:

    ? A blown double-digit lead at Texas A&M.

    ? A failure to comeback against UAB with Fogg and Horne’s last-second intentional fouls.

    ? A collapse at USC from Wise’s technical and Horne’s unintentional late foul.

    And on cue, tonight produced yet another Arizona foul.

    Welcome to Late Foul U.

    “”It kicks you in the gut. It’s tough,”” Pennell said. “”This is where you find out a lot about your team, and a lot about yourself. I thought the last two games we played hard enough to win, we just didn’t make enough plays to get the job done.””

    Added Budinger: “”It’s just like the rest of them. Our team really has to concentrate down the stretch of games and be able to finish.””

    Rivalry reborn

    For 40 minutes Wednesday evening, McKale Center buzzed with intensity and sounded raucous like the golden days.

    But an ASU victory, its third-straight over UA, certainly didn’t give a feeling like the golden days.

    More like golden and maroon.

    This season, Pennell has consistently told the media that this isn’t your father’s Arizona with respect toward the once-powerhouse program that Lute Olson built. But it also isn’t your father’s ASU.

    The No. 17 Sun Devils came into Tucson ranked and favored, no longer just a pushover beat down.

    “”We know that no matter what the record is or what the score is, it’s going to be a war when it comes to this game,”” said ASU guard Derek Glasser. “”Whether it’s at our house or their house, it’s a rivalry game. They brought it and we brought it, and luckily we came out with the win.””

    Earlier this week ASU coach Herb Sendek downplayed his program’s recent emergence and newfound prevalence in a once one-sided rivalry dominated by the Wildcats.

    The pendulum that began swaying last year, after ASU swept the Wildcats in both contests, might have finally picked enough Sun Devil momentum in light of Wednesday’s second consecutive victory in Tucson.

    “”I know how much this rivalry means. I get it,”” Pennell said. “”Just the fact it was a close game and we didn’t come out on top, I don’t care who it is, I think we’d be just as disappointed.””

    The loss puts Arizona in a difficult hole close to the Pacific 10 Conference basement. Instead of inching back toward the .500 mark in conference play and adding another résumé-building win, the Wildcats fall to 2-5 in the conference.

    “”We’re by ourselves,”” Hill said. “”We’re doing this for ourselves now. We gotta keep fighting, keep working. Basically, just playing for us. We still got more games to go, still got a lot of learning to do.””

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