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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Pac-10 Tourney Update: Harden leads ASU past Wildcats

    ASU guard James Harden reacts to a 3-pointer made in a 68-56 win against Arizona in the Staples Center on Thursday Afternoon. ASUs win against the Wildcats in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 Conference Tournament was the Sun Devils fifth straight win over Wildcats. Harden, a sophomore, has never lost the Wildcats.
    ASU guard James Harden reacts to a 3-pointer made in a 68-56 win against Arizona in the Staples Center on Thursday Afternoon. ASU’s win against the Wildcats in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 Conference Tournament was the Sun Devils’ fifth straight win over Wildcats. Harden, a sophomore, has never lost the Wildcats.

    No. 4 ASU 68, No. 5 Arizona 56

    LOS ANGELES -ÿJames Harden ran down the court in Staples Center and let go of a floater at the free throw line.

    Nothing but net.

    The shot gave No. 4 seed ASU a 55-45 lead over No. 5 Arizona with 6:40 left in the quarterfinals of the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament on Thursday afternoon in Los Angeles.

    Harden smiled through his thick beard as he ran down the court, and why wouldn’t he? The sophomore guard led the Sun Devils (23-8, 12-7 Pac-10) with 27 points points in a 68-56 win over the Wildcats – ASU’s third win against Arizona (19-13, 9-10 Pac-10) this season.

    In five career games against Arizona, Harden has never lost.

    “”For me it feels great, never losing to U of A in my career so far,”” Harden said. “”They had the upside for most of the years so it just feels great and it is special to be a part of that. They are a great team and a powerhouse and we are working to make this team a powerhouse as well.””

    The Wildcats led 34-32 at halftime, but ASU came into the second half firing.

    Harden and forward Rihards Kuksiks each made 3-pointers. After UA guard Nic Wise scored a 3-pointer, Pendergraph answered with two dunks, launching the Devils ahead, 42-37.

    Despite Harden picking up his third foul and Pendergraph committing his fourth in the second half, the Sun Devils never looked back.

    But if you ask Harden about ASU’s win, he’d tell you the Sun Devils didn’t do anything too special against the Wildcats. Their real motivation was getting into the NCAA Tournament.

    “”Just doing what we do, which is playing great defense and making ourselves better on the offensive end,”” he said. “”Until (the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee) calls our name, we don’t know if we will make it, so we need to play like we have our backs against the wall and get as many games as we can. And I think we did a pretty good job of that today.””

    The Wildcats, who needed the win for a chance to get into the NCAA Tournament worse than the Devils did, didn’t shoot well from the floor.

    The Wildcats shot 35.5 percent (22-for-62) from the floor; the Sun Devils shot 52.1 percent (25-for-48).

    Jordan Hill led the Wildcats with 20 points to go with 13 rebounds, and Wise chipped in 13 points. But Chase Budinger scored just 8 points on 3-for-15 shooting, including 1-for-9 from beyond the arc.

    “”Nothing was falling, inside (or) out,”” Budinger said. “”Credit ASU. They do a heck of a job on their defense. They just make it hard for us to get good looks. Everything just wasn’t falling.””

    Budinger made first 3 of game with 5:49 left, only to be matched with a trey by Kuksiks and a Harden dunk on the other end of the floor.

    “”That boy’s nice. He’s good,”” Hill said of Harden. “”What can I say? He just goes out there and handles his business.””

    The win gave the Sun Devils their first Pac-10 Conference Tournament victory in seven games since 2002.

    “”To know that you have another game coming up against another good opponent is good,”” said Pendergraph, who scored 10 points and pulled down 9 rebounds. “”To send somebody else home for a change is a nice feeling.””

    Check back with the Arizona Daily Wildcat on Friday for a full recap of the game and an analysis of where the team’s NCAA Tournament chances stand.

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