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A tale of two halves doom Arizona men's basketball against ASU

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Amy Bailey | The Daily Wildcat Wildcat Zeke Nnaji (22) takes a breather after the referee calls a foul on Arizona.

Arizona men’s basketball went cold in the second half and lost a 22 point lead as they fell 66-65 to ASU Saturday night in Tempe.

Early on, both teams struggled shooting the ball, but Arizona went on a 19-1 run midway through the half to open up a sizable lead. Nico Mannion led the way during the run and at one point was 4-4 from three. Mannion picked up his second foul with five minutes left in the half, however, and was forced to sit the rest of the half.

Head coach Sean Miller has been praising the play of Ira Lee and Dylan Smith lately, and we saw more of what Miller has been talking about. Miller played the two of them together with Jemarl Baker, Stone Gettings and Max Hazzard for a smaller and quicker lineup. 

The lineup paid off, and the five of them worked well together, setting up Baker for a three and Gettings for a couple baskets. 

ASU wouldn’t go away, however. They started the second half hot and got to within six before Miller had to use a timeout. As good as Arizona’s 19-1 run was in the first half, ASU countered with a run of their own and eventually tied the game back up. 

“They made more plays and they were the harder playing team in the second half and they deserved to win,” Smith said. 

The Sun Devils had multiple opportunities to take the lead throughout the second half but just couldn’t make the big shot. That was until there was 4:27 minutes left, and ASU took their first lead since early in the game. The two teams went back and forth for the final minutes, and Arizona had the lead with under a minute left. 

Arizona had the ball with under a minute remaining but had to put up a shot with the shot clock running down. Gettings had a look at three but couldn’t knock it down, and ASU took over. 

Alonzo Verge Jr. took the ball with nine seconds remaining and made a running layup to go up one. Arizona was out of timeouts, so Mannion took the ball and drove down to the three point line but picked up his dribble and was forced to pass it to Josh Green in the corner. Green drove to the paint but met three defenders, and the ball got knocked away as time ran out. 

It was another heart wrenching loss for an Arizona team, who still hasn’t won on the road and missed their opportunity to sweep ASU. 

“We’re not a confident group, we really aren’t,” Miller said. “I wish I could help our guys break through. I’m the coach, and it really starts with me.” 

The Wildcats will be traveling again next week as they head to Seattle on Thursday to take on Washington and then Pullman to see Washington State on Saturday. 


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