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Arizona cruises past ASU in Pac-12 opener

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at Arizona Jacob Snow-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing cures what ails you like a beatdown of your archrival.

Two weeks off following a two-game losing streak apparently paid off for the Arizona Wildcats, who led wire-to-wire on their way to a 75-47 win over ASU on Saturday night at McKale Center in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.

Arizona (11-3, 1-0) ended a two-game skid to the Sun Devils thanks to an overabundance of baskets in the paint, many on drives and dunks, while on the other end of the court the Wildcats held ASU (9-5, 0-1) to 30.5 percent shooting (including 3 of 21 on three-pointers) and forced 15 turnovers.

Zeke Nnaji had 17 points and 11 rebounds, making 7 of 11 shots, while Josh Green had 12 points and seven rebounds and Nico Mannion added 10 points with seven assists despite 3-of-9 shooting.

Dylan Smith also had 10 and Arizona got 20 bench points as all 10 eligible scholarship players scored.

UA shot 47.6 percent overall and 50 percent in the first half to lead 36-17 but still missed a lot of easy baskets overall. The reason it had so many makeable shots was the result of strong passing and stellar rebounding, with the Wildcats owning a 49-35 edge on the boards. They also outscored ASU 50-18 in the paint, with many of those baskets coming off drives.

ASU shot 25.9 percent in the first half, making only seven baskets including none in the final 4:56, yet still managed to:

  • have Jaelen House blow kisses to the crowd after a made basket down nine,
  • have Remy Martin hang on a rim after a dunk down seven, and
  • have Rob Edwards shush fans following a made jumper down 10

ASU trailed only 16-11 with 9:45 left before Arizona went on a 10-2 run to lead 26-13 with 5:14 to go, and the margin just grew from there.

Arizona had a minor scare late in the first half when Mannion bumped knees with Edwards on defense and had to go to the bench with 4:37 to go. His absence wasn’t felt, though, as ASU missed its final six shots of the half to trail by 19.

Mannion started the second half and eight of his 10 points.

The second half turned into somewhat of a pickup game, particularly for Arizona, which had four dunks and 17 fast break points. A 12-0 run midway through the second half upped the Wildcats’ margin to 66-37, and a Nnaji layup with 4:57 left got it over 30.

The margin of victory was the largest for UA over ASU since a 99-61 thumping at McKale in Feb. 2017.

Arizona returns to action Thursday when it starts a two-game road trip at Oregon.