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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Wildcats win first Pac-12 Conference game over ASU

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Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat

In a game that felt much more one sided than the final score indicates, the Arizona Wildcats defeated the ASU Sun Devils 68-51 on Saturday in both schools’ conference-opener.

“I thought today’s game, our team was ready to play,” head coach Sean Miller said. “We came out of the gates with a lot of energy. Our defense was in place. To me we set the tone with hard play.”

It was junior Solomon Hill and senior Jesse Perry who set the tone for the Wildcats (10-4, 1-0 Pac-12 Conference). Combined, Hill and Perry had 27 points, 17 rebounds, six assists two blocks and two steals. Miller said the veteran leadership was what helped Arizona push through the first sloppy minutes of the game.

In the second half, Arizona had a 21-point lead at one point, but let the Sun Devils (4-9, 0-1) inch back into the game. Although their lead never dipped below 13 points, Hill said ASU’s push was a sign the Wildcats still had things to work on.

“I think we need to close out better,” Hill said. “We just need to close the game out.”

Arizona continued with its fast-paced offense that has developed through the last three games, but it was limited early on by ASU’s zone defense. From the field, both teams shot a combined 6-for-25 from the line and nine total turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game.

The Wildcats took a 34-20 lead into halftime thanks to their aggression on defense. ASU had 13 turnovers at the half and 19 in the game. ASU had 10 turnovers in the first 12 minutes of the first half.

“I think that’s one of ASU’s Achilles’ heels,” Miller said. “They turned the ball over before they got to us. Our defensive pressure at times had a lot to do with them turning the ball over.”

Although the game started sloppy for both teams, Arizona’s offense picked up mid-way through the first half. At one point, the Sun Devils went five minutes without scoring, which led to an 11-0 Arizona run. The Wildcats picked up the slack on offense by the end of the half, improving their shooting percentage from 27 percent to 42 percent.

And while the Wildcats were not immune to the mistakes of an up-tempo game, they had 15 turnovers, but made up for their mistakes on offense with potent defense. Arizona had 10 total steals and scored 22 points off of turnovers and six off fast break.

Jesse Perry said the defensive effort was part of the style of play Arizona wanted to show against the Sun Devils.

“Definitely just go out there and beat them; not just beat them by one or two points but try to make a statement,” Perry said.

The Sun Devils struggled shooting from the field, finishing just 18-for-50 and just 4-for-15 from the 3-point line.

“We’ve had a couple other good defensive efforts but that doesn’t always mean that it translated to a win,” Miller said. “We really had great collective effort on defense.

Freshman Josiah Turner had one of his best games at Arizona with five steals and two assists, including an alley-oop to Johnson that was the highlight of the first half. Turner played 21 minutes in the game and finished with six points.

“It’s hard to get five steals in a game; he did it in 21 minutes,” Miller said.

Miller said Turner’s performance was an improvement in his everyday approach.

“He’s a more consistent in practice he’s a better player in practice,” Miller said. “He’s improving leaps and bounds in areas where he doesn’t have the ball.”

Turner and the rest of the Wildcats travel to the Los Angeles schools next weekend, starting with UCLA on Jan. 5 at 7 p.m.

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