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January 17, 2014

No. 1 Arizona rips Sun Devils

Arizona State just didn't belong. 111 miles away from its home at Wells Fargo Arena, it didn't fit in with the sea of red in the stands of McKale Center in Tuscon, Ariz., and it certainly didn't have the ability to compete with the No. 1 team in the country.

A lack of productivity on the offensive end paired with a struggle on the defensive side led to ASU's lopsided 91-68 loss to Arizona. In the first of two regular season meetings between Sun Devils and the Wildcats, Arizona undoubtedly showed who was superior.

ASU dropped to 13-5 overall and 2-3 in Pac-12 conference play. Arizona continued its 15-game win streak at home and improved to 18-0 overall and 5-0 in the league.

With back-to-back blowout losses on the road to two premier Pac-12 conference teams, UCLA and Arizona, ASU will have to figure out how to improve its game play and do it quick.

Slipping rapidly in the Pac-12 standings, ASU's next two-game homestand against Utah and Colorado will be crucial for ASU to stay in contention for their NCAA tournament at-large hopes.

ASU will be a favorite over Utah (12-4) at home and due to Colorado's recent loss of star Spencer Dinwiddie for the year to injury, ASU has as good an opportunity as they'll get on the remaining schedule to gain back confidence ahead of the final month and a half of the season.

"When you go on a two-game losing streak there's definitely something to be concerned about," sophomore point guard Jahii Carson said after the game.

Carson especially has been struggling greatly in the past two games. Combining Carson's numbers from the loss at UCLA and the first half against Arizona, Carson went 6 of 27 from the field and only dished out three assists.

After the Arizona game, Carson admitted his lack of production.

"I definitely think that I was in a slump and I'm never going to say that I didn't play well and I didn't play well those couple games," Carson said.

"I wasn't beating the defense, I was just looking sluggish. I wasn't looking like I was having any fun out there. But it was just me, it didn't have to do with anyone else, it was just me and I finally got out of that."

Senior center Jordan Bachynski acknowledged ASU's recent struggles, but firmly stated the losses came against two great and tough teams -- one of course being at the hands of the No. 1 team in the country -- and that things will be alright.

"Obviously there are things we can improve on, but I think we are a great team," Bachynski said. "We're not showing it right now but we will."

With senior guard Jermaine Marshall unable to play against Arizona game due to a groin injury suffered in ASU's practice on Tuesday, ASU's hopes to pull out an upset quickly faded and Carson's strong second half effort was too late.

Despite Carson's team-high 20 points on 7 for 19 shooting from the field, he struggled mightily in the first half, just 2 of 10 from the field by the time ASU was all but out of the game.

It's not as though Carson had much help.

Junior wing Bo Barnes was a lone bright spot in the second half, but by that point the game's outcome was already decided. The seldom used Barnes was 0-1 in the first half and then turned it on during the second half with three straight three-pointers, ending the game with 13 points.

From the beginning of the game both teams struggled from the field. At the 15:43 mark of the first half, ASU was 1 of 8 while Arizona was 2 of 6.

Only down 6-3 early on the road, ASU seemingly had the chance to change the dynamic of the game, but an 11-4 run by UA quickly diminished ASU's chances to upset the top-ranked Wildcats.

Bachynski picked up his third personal foul with 3:45 left in the first half and quickly ASU's paint productivity lessened. ASU only had six points in the paint in the first half compared to Arizona's 12 points.

ASU made a 11-4 run before halftime, but down 42-28 in a hostile environment in Tuscon, ASU would need to make major changes in the second half to keep its chances of pulling out the win a reality.

The Sun Devils were 6 of 26 from the field, while the Wildcats were 14 of 28 from the field at intermission.

In addition to poor shooting, ASU turned the ball over 10 times by halftime, and 18 by the end of the game. ASU averages nine per game.

To start the second half, the Wildcats had a 10-2 run, bringing the score to 52-30 and quickly ending any chance of an ASU comeback.

While Carson started to take the game over for ASU on offense, after every possible momentum changing play, Arizona went down the court and made some more momentum of its own.

Arizona's balanced attack was lead by Arizona junior guard Nick Johnson's 6 for 9 shooting from the field for 17 points in 27 minutes.

Seven players from Arizona scored in double figures. All of them, ASU head coach Herb Sendek said after the game, are capable of scoring 20 points on any night. Three ASU players scored in double figures.

Freshman Aaron Gordon continued his standout season going 7 of 12 from the field, totaling 16 points.

"I'm not surprised at all," Sendek said of Arizona's strong play. "I've seen them on tape, I've watched them play on television. When you look at the results they're posting night in and night out, tonight wasn't a surprise."


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