On Wednesday night, McKale Center was very, very loud and very, very red as the in-state rival Arizona State Sun Devils came to Tucson to take on the Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats responded to the fans' "red out" with a blowout, lighting up the Sun Devils 99-61. With the win, Arizona completed its first sweep of ASU since 2013.
The Wildcats set the tone early in a first half full of runs. Arizona didn't allow their fans to sit down for the first 4:22, starting the game with an 8-0 run. The Wildcats led by as much as 11 early on, but Arizona State answered with a run of their own, even taking a 20-19 lead after a Gerry Blakes three pointer.
That would be the last time the Sun Devils would have anything close to a lead.
From that point, led by fantastic rim protection at the defensive end and getting everything they wanted on offense, Arizona would finish the first half on a 19-4 run, taking a 38-24 lead to the break.
The second half was a whole lot of the same. Offensively, it seemed that the Wildcats had a deal with one another to just take turns. An Allonzo Trier three-pointer was followed by a Gabe York three-pointer which then led to a pretty Parker Jackson-Cartwright floater. At one point, Kadeem Allen scored seven straight points in electrifying fashion in the span of one minute, twelve seconds. It was an absolute barrage and nearly all the Wildcats were taking part.
But the story of the game was the defense, led by senior center Kaleb Tarczewski. The Sun Devils couldn't get anything easy all night, shooting only 32% from the field, and the Wildcat bigs made absolutely sure ASU couldn't get anything around the rim, blocking eight shots. Zeus had four of those blocks, including this:
That's just mean spirited.
Allonzo Trier led the way with 20 points, adding in eight rebounds. Last week, Kaleb Tarczewski had a career-high 14 rebounds. He topped that tonight with 15 rebounds, chipping in six points and four blocks.
A few thoughts on the game...
- This is the best Arizona performance of the season. Say what you want about Arizona State. Are they a top tier opponent? No. But they're not a bad basketball team, by any means. Beating a Pac-12 team the way Arizona just did was impressive, no matter who it was. Arizona appears to be peaking at the right time, winning six in a row and looking like a total juggernaut tonight on both ends of the floor.
- Speaking of best performances, I think tonight was the best Kaleb Tarczewski Arizona fans have seen. And for a guy who is closing in on being the winningest player in program history, that's saying something. He was a rebounding monster (the whole team was, really, they out-rebounded ASU, 52-27). His rim protection was excellent. He blocked four shots but he affected at least a handful more. It was an A+ performance.
After a big time win over the guys up north, the Wildcats are alone in first place in the Pac-12, 10-4 in conference and 22-5 overall. Plus, they have a week off. Next up is their final road trip of the season, starting with a trip to Boulder to take on the Colorado Buffaloes next Wednesday night.