It was another step forward and in my humble opinion Sean Miller is showing he's worth every penny of his contract so far as the Wildcats downed the Sun Devils 77-58 in Tempe. Granted, he's not the one hitting the jumpers but it's obvious that he is having a tremendous impact on how these kids play as a unit and refuses to get down on them. The game was immensely important for quite a few reasons. One, has ASU truly established itself as having pulled ahead of U of A in hoops, were they on an even level in regards to coaching, personnel and competitive fire. Also, the winner of this game grabs momentum into the latter half of the Pac 10 season. Plus you had the history background concerning the coaching staffs and the fact that the fanbases of each school have an amplified moronic effect on each other with catcalls, flames and hyperbole being thrown around as if it was loan refinancing before the financial crash.
The defining moment, it could have been one of two items in my opinion. Was it the pivotal defensive stop in the first half when the Cats battled back from a 20-10 deficit and willed themselves back into the game? Perhaps it was the hard foul committed by Kevin Parrom, which served notice that no cheapies were not allowed in tonight's game?
There were a lot of hidden items that got lost in the box score that I feel need to be drawn out a bit....
The boards....UA won 33 to 32, despite ASU having an Offensive board advantage of 10-2
The game was supposed to be a test, the defense mattered and the common thinking was that since ASU has the best defense (statistically) in the country, that they would throttle the fledgeling Arizona offense and control the game. The problem was that the Cats played better D than the Devils and it showed at both the 3pt and FG%'s both were tilted in the Cats favor.
Granted the Devils were without McMillan and I think that his absence was telling for the Devils. Simply because this was a rough game, the refs let the kids play and there was bumping and reaching, but for the most part, the players settled this on the court.
Arizona shot 85% at the free throw line and the turnover stat was held to a very reasonable 11. The one unspoken key was how unselfish the team played, with 20 assists to ASU's 14.
I can't really say which was more important, the closing of the 10 point SunDevil lead in the first half or the hard foul, but I tend to lean to the first half grit that was shown by the team. The Cats were having problems handling the backdoor cuts at first but the rotation of players in their man-to-man was adjusted. The r may have b first inside basket in the first half, they had seen enpe and film to breakdown the zone and found a way to make the inside-out game work again.
The second half was a revellatnhe rekindling of the beast within Jamene must have been rekindelled as he had no impact in the first half, in the second, he managed to make threes and began to assist Derrick Williams in handling the shut down of any inside ASU game tat the Devils hoped to create. So it was the outside game for the devils and they died by that process as well. Shooters were contested, looks were obscured in what may have been the best defensive effort to date.
Now the focus is on whether these 'Cats can string a few wins together in a row.