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Defense leads No. 3 Arizona to 67-56 win over Arizona State

Published: Jan. 29, 2022 at 3:27 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Bennedict Mathurin and Oumar Ballo scored 14 points each, and No. 3 Arizona turned up the defensive pressure in the second half to beat rival Arizona State 67-56 on Saturday.

The Wildcats (17-2, 7-1 Pac-12) had a second straight shaky-shooting game, missing open shots all over the floor. Arizona shot 32% from the floor and went 3 for 23 from 3, yet found a way to win behind superb second-half defense.

Arizona State (6-12, 2-6) managed to slow down one of the nation’s fastest-tempo teams and seemed to have the Wildcats on the ropes several times. The Sun Devils kept letting the cold-shooting Wildcats hang around, then went cold themselves to lose for the 11th time in 12 games at McKale Center.

DJ Horne led Arizona State with 15 points, but had just two in the second half.

The Wildcats got off to a slow start and had a rare poor shooting in a 75-59 loss at No. 7 UCLA on Tuesday, shooting 31% and went 7 for 28 from 3.

The shaky shooting continued early against Arizona State. The Wildcats missed their first eight shots and 10 of 11 to fall into a seven-point hole in the opening seven minutes.

And they kept missing, finishing the first half 7 for 29 while missing all 13 of their 3-point attempts.

Free throws and Arizona State’s turnovers kept Arizona in it. The Wildcats went 18 of 21 from the line — Arizona State shot five — to tie the game at 32-all by halftime.

Kerr Kriisa gave Arizona a lift in the second half.

The Estonian point guard went 0 for 12 against UCLA — nine of those 3-pointers — and opened Saturday’s game by missing his first four shots. Kriisa hit Arizona’s first 3-pointer in 15 attempts and blew a kiss to the crowd after draining another.

Pelle Larsson later banked in a 3 and Justin Kier’s three-point play capped a 10-0 run that put Arizona up 60-48 with five minutes left.

The Sun Devils had chances to pull away themselves.

A depleted Arizona State — seven scholarship players — got off to a quick start before fading in a 22-point loss to No. 15 Southern California on Monday.

The Sun Devils had Kimani Lawrence back against Arizona and got off to another fast start, hitting 6 of their first 10 shots to go up seven. Arizona State went on another run to go up 28-20, but 11 first-half turnovers allowed Arizona to hang around.

Arizona State cut down on the turnovers in the second half, but still struggled against Arizona’s defensive pressure. The Sun Devils hit one field goal in a span of 10 1/2 minutes as the Wildcats stretched the lead and shot 8 of 34 in the second half.

BIG PICTURE

Arizona State did what it needed to against one of the nation’s fastest team, grinding the game to a near halt. Arizona’s second-half defensive pressure proved to be too much, sending the Sun Devils to their fifth loss in six games.

It wasn’t always pretty, but Arizona found a way. Defense kept the Wildcats in it in the first half and triggered their offense in the second to pull away.

UP NEXT

Arizona State: Hosts USC on Thursday.

Arizona: Gets a rematch against UCLA at home Thursday.

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