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Arizona gives up 18 point lead in the first half, but holds on to beat ASU 77-70

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Simon Asher | The Daily Wildcat Arizona State's Remy Martin (1) trips trying to get away from Arizona's Parker Jackson-Cartwright (0) during the frst half of the Arizona-Arizona State game on Thursday, Feb. 15 in Wells Fargo Arena in Phoenix, Ariz. At the half, Arizona is up 39-38.

TEMPE, ARIZ. -- Deandre Ayton’s 25 point, 16 rebound double-double helped Arizona men’s basketball outlast ASU 77-70 after the Wildcats gave up a 18-point lead and let the Sun Devils go on a 16-2 run to close the first half Thursday in a packed Wells Fargo Arena. 

Arizona knocked off ASU to complete a season sweep of the Sun Devils and improve to 21-6, and 11-3 in the conference, while ASU fell to 19-7 and 7-7 in the Pac-12. 

Arizona started the game firing on all cylinders and built a 18-point lead by the 11:00 minute mark in the first half. ASU fought back with a 16-2 run that left Arizona clinging to a one point lead by halftime. 

In total, ASU went on a 31-6 run that stretched over the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half to go from down as much as 18, to up seven. However, in the second half ASU dealt with foul trouble and Arizona fought back with a burst of defensive energy and a 10-2 run to retake the lead with 10:43 left in the game. 

"It was a game of runs," Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. "It was a tremendous atmosphere.. this is how college basketball should feel like." 

Once Arizona erased ASU's seven-point lead early in the second half, it was a back-and-forth battle all the way down to the final two minutes when Allonzo Trier made a 3-pointer that made it a two possession game and put Arizona up five. On the following possession, Deandre Ayton dunked the ball and gave Arizona a seven point lead, ultimately sealing the win for the Wildcats. 

Arizona found success by feeding Ayton under the rim. The seven-footer had eight points in the first half and 17 in the second half. Arizona had a clear advantage in the second half when ASU’s center, Romello White, picked up his fourth foul and left ASU without someone to go one-on-one with Ayton. The Devils tried to double-team Ayton but he repeatedly managed to get to the free throw line, where he shot 9-for-12. 

"As I go, this team goes," Ayton said. "I just really gave my all on defense... I didn't really get a chance to go one-on-one, but my effort on the offensive glass really showed."

Sun Devils head coach Bobby Hurley said Ayton in the best big he has ever seen in college basketball. 

"He's a special player." ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. "He doesn't get that tired either. We had him on the perimeter running around on ball screens but he stayed in there. He's got a great future, obviously."

Simon Asher
Arizona's Deandre Ayton (13) shoots over Arizona State's Kodi Justice (44) during the Arizona-Arizona State game on Thursday, Feb. 15 in Wells Fargo Arena in Phoenix, Ariz. Ayton had 25 points and 16 rebounds in the game.

ASU guard Tra Holder lead the way for the Devils with 20 points while Kodi Justice followed him with 19 on 4-for-9 shooting from deep.

Trier also added five assists to his 19 points for Arizona while shooting 6-of-12 from the floor and 3-of-5 from deep. He was forced to play point guard for the Wildcats when Parker Jackson-Cartwright picked up his fourth foul. 

"He had a good game in his own right," Miller said. "He played a lot of minutes when Parker wasn't in there and I think he played the game with two turnovers."

Arizona shot 48 percent from the floor and held ASU to 42 percent. The Wildcats also shot 45 percent from 3-point range in the first half, but only 14 percent in the second half. ASU started the game 0-5 from three, but went 4-of-7 during a stretch in the first half while making a comeback.

The Wildcats gave up 20 turnovers while ASU only gave up 14. Sean Miller gave the Devil's credit for bringing defensive pressure and confusing Arizona. 

During the first half, Arizona's other seven-footer, Dusan Ristic, hit two back-to-back threes. He finished the game with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting. 

The big man doesn't usually take 3-pointers, but he shot 3-of-3 from deep in January when Utah visited the McKale Center. After that game, Miller said he would rather Ristic stick to taking shots he is accustomed to making.

After the ASU game, Miller didn't comment on his center trying to stretch the floor, but Ayton was happy with what he saw. 

"He hits them in practice," Ayton said. "We all know he can do it."

Arizona goes on the road to play at Oregon State in Gill Coliseum next Thursday Feb. 22 on FS1. 


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