(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Arizona State men’s basketball kicks off the second half of Pac-12 play by hosting No. 6 Arizona for the second leg of the Territorial Cup.
In their first bout with the Wildcats, the Sun Devils fell in Tucson by 24 points, 73-49. ASU struggled immensely on offense with not one player in double-digit scoring, and as a team, the Sun Devils shot an anemic 32.6 percent from the field while Arizona put up an efficient 51 percent.
Whereas Arizona is coming off a strong win over Oregon State, ASU let a win slip through its hands in an overtime-loss to Oregon. Nevertheless, both teams had a week of rest before the scheduled turned around, and one month remains before the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.
Keys to the Game:
Find an offensive rhythm quickly
Arizona ranks fourth in the country in defensive efficiency and has held 66 of its last 67 opponents under 80 points. With as streaky as the Sun Devil offense has been, ASU will need to find the hot hand quickly to avoid the same abysmal showing that occurred in Tucson.
Tra Holder vs. T.J. McConnell
ASU freshman point guard Tra Holder is riding a string of composed, confident games. Against the Wildcats, he’ll face senior guard T.J. McConnell, a player Holder admitted to modeling his game after. Holder will have to continue his confident play against the lengthy, rangy Wildcats and find his way into the lane to give his shooters an opportunity to float along the perimeter and find gaps to get shots off cleanly. He’ll also have to get into McConnell on defense and attempt to force a few turnovers. However, McConnell leads the Pac-12 with a 3.28 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Crash the Boards
Arizona tops the Pac-12 in rebounding margin at +7.5 and lead the nation in defensive rebounding percentage at 77.5 percent. When the Wildcats win the rebounding battle, they are 112-20 under head coach Sean Miller. Although undersized, it’ll be up to Savon Goodman and Eric Jacobsen on the front line to minimize the amount of second-chance opportunities Arizona gets, as well as, snag a few extra putbacks. It’ll be a collective effort for ASU, and getting its backcourt players to gang rebound will maximize its possessions.
Arizona is the top team in the conference for a reason, and ASU has proven nothing but its inconsistency. If senior forwards Bo Barnes and Jonathan Gilling find their shooting eyes quickly and often, the Sun Devils will have a chance, but the amount of length Arizona contains on defense makes that task an extremely difficult one to execute. Barring an awful shooting night from the Wildcats, they should come away with the season sweep over ASU.
You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org