Pressure is a funny thing.
When a favored team has something to play for and their opponent doesn't, the lack of pressure can often lead to wild upsets.Throw in a rivalry, and you've got an opportunity for an upset.
That's what happened when the Arizona Wildcats played the ASU Sun Devils in football this past season, and in the Territorial Cup rivalry, Arizona State got the Wildcats back with a 87-80 victory on the basketball court Sunday in Tempe, ending any chance UA could make the NCAA tournament as an at-large team.
The formerly-anemic Sun Devils dropped their Pac-12 season high on Arizona by shooting 55.8 percent from the floor, and the Wildcats never showed a sense of urgency.
In a back and forth affair, it appeared the Wildcats finally had awakened leading into the halftime break. ASU turned it over twice, leading to a three-pointer by Brendon Lavender and a dunk by Jesse Perry to go into the locker room with a 44-38 lead and all the momentum.That was quickly erased in the second half.
Kyle Fogg put in 23 points and Lavender scored 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting from beyond the three-point stripe. Solomon Hill pumped in 16 points, and Perry added 15 and 11 rebounds, but the Wildcats didn't get the production needed out of freshmen guards Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner.
The duo combined for eight points, five assists and seven turnovers.
The Wildcats kept up with the Sun Devils' interior scorer with aggressive shooting against the match-up zone. Forcing big man Jordan Bachynski to chase shootiers to the corners of the court, Sean Miller fed Lavender and Fogg off set plays, but as the game wore on, ASU's suddenly efficient offense was too much.
Arizona's defense that usually tightens up as the game enters the final seven minutes didn't on Sunday, and a tightly-called game put the Sun Devils on the foul line down the stretch where they hit 22-of-24 free throws.
Now, the Wildcats stare at a harsh reality. The loss drops the worst loss of the season on an already poor tournament resume, and in just a few days, the Wildcats will need to run through the Pac-12 Tournament if they have any hope of making the Big Dance.