(Photo: Noah Findling/WCSN)
The Sun Devils and Wildcats square off again tonight but this time in Tempe. Both teams have come a long way since U of A took down ASU in Tempe roughly a month ago. Here is what the WCSN basketball writers believe will be different.
We all know that ASU has not fared well against Arizona in their last three meetings. Jahii Carson was quoted this week as saying, “It’s about time I get one,” in reference to his 0-3 record against the Wildcats. Yes, Brandon Ashley’s absence should be factored into this game. Yes, Jermaine Marshall’s absence from the first meeting this season and presence in this second meeting should be weighed as well.
When I put those aspects onto the scale they weigh in with a couple of results. Marshall’s presence means that U of A has three players that they have to account for with Carson and the reeling Jordan Bachynski. Those three players are currently playing well the first half so this game will not be a blow out from the get-go as the previous few meetings have been. However, in the end the Wildcats will pull away.
U of A is too disciplined a team on defense to let the absence of a player, no matter how great, affect the outcomes of their games. Yes, I’m aware that Cal beat Arizona and Oregon took the team down to the wire, and by placing pieces together the average fan says, “ASU beat both of those teams so why can’t they do the same to U of A.”
ASU can, but they won’t. The game will be competitive for the first half and a parts of the second, but ultimately in the end the Wildcats will pull away with a lead in the lower teens for the win. Nick Johnson’s leadership and fundamentals paired with the play of Aaron Gordon in the back court will be enough to secure another U of A victory.
Friday night will be a big game for Arizona State. Last go around against Arizona, ASU had troubles both offensively and defensively. This time, ASU gains a major offensive threat in senior guard Jermaine Marshall, who was ruled out of the Arizona game due to a groin injury.
Marshall has been averaging 20.3 points over the past four games. In addition, senior center Jordan Bachynski was in foul trouble for a good portion of the night against Arizona back in their first meeting after picking up his third foul with 3:45 left in the first half. If Bachynski can lead the way he has over the past two games for ASU, averaging 21.5 points and 12 rebounds, the Sun Devils will looks to have more production in the paint.
In their last meeting, Arizona outscored ASU 38-18 in the paint, as Bachynski only scored three points, all from the free throw line. Furthermore, ASU will be playing No. 2 Arizona at Wells Fargo Arena. This is a big advantage for ASU. With the game sold out, the atmosphere will be all in ASU’s favor. This season ASU is 13-1 at home and the Wildcats have played in multiple close games this season on the road. Most known is their loss to Cal at the Haas Pavilion in the very beginning of February. While Arizona still is the higher-ranked team, coming down to Tempe, Ariz. will be a major game-changer if ASU plays the game it played in the first half against Oregon.
Valentine’s day: two rivals, one winner, a sold-out stadium and a perfect formula for a loving game of feel-good basketball.
Except there will be anything but love left on the basketball court Friday night as the Arizona State Sun Devils look to defeat the No. 2 ranked Arizona Wildcats and advance in the Territorial Cup race.
In their last matchup, Arizona sailed past ASU from the start and the Sun Devils just couldn’t gain the momentum they needed to claw their way back into the game.
Before making some hasty bets in Arizona’s favor, maybe we should stop and consider the possibility of a more even-keeled matchup this time around.
Yes, ASU is definitely the underdog. However, that didn’t stop the Cal Bears, a team that the Sun Devils beat by 11 points, from sneaking up and snatching Arizona’s undefeated season right out from under their noses.
This time around, Jermaine Marshall will be playing, adding quite a bit more depth to the offense.
Not to mention the fact that Brandon Ashley, Arizona’s third leading scorer, will be out with his season-ending foot injury. His loss removes a huge offensive and rebounding threat.
While it is going to be hard to prevail against a team that has been on fire this year, it is not impossible.
ASU will need strength. They will need speed. They will need an up-tempo start with explosive runs and a resilient finish. They just might need to leave the love at home.