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Defense leads way as Arizona beats ASU to complete season sweep of Sun Devils

Bennedict Mathurin was lost to an ankle sprain

arizona-asu-basketball-final-score-recap-wildcats-reaction-sun-devils-mathurin-pac-12 Mike Mattina/Arizona Athletics

All most people will remember from Arizona’s win at ASU last week was Azuolas Tubelis’ game-winning layup at the buzzer. Not Sean Miller. To him, that game was an example of the Wildcats winning “in spite of” their defense.

The second time around, they won because of their defense. For the first 30 minutes, at least.

Arizona held ASU scoreless for the first 6:44 on Monday night, limiting the Sun Devils to 36.2 percent shooting in an 80-67 victory at McKale Center to complete a Territorial Cup sweep for the first time since 2017-18.

On the one-year anniversary of their 22-point collapse in Tempe, the Wildcats (12-3, 6-3 Pac-12) led 40-18 at halftime in handing the Sun Devils (4-8, 1-5) their sixth consecutive loss. ASU hasn’t won since Dec. 13.

Terrell Brown Jr. led Arizona with 18 points, adding four rebounds, three assists and four steals, while Tubelis and James Akinjo had 16 apiece. Tubelis added 12 rebounds and Akinjo had six assists.

Monday’s win lost some of its zip late in the first half when UA freshman wing Bennedict Mathurin crashed to the ground under the south basket and grabbed his right foot. Mathurin, who had eight points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes before getting hurt, was diagnosed with a right ankle sprain.

Arizona started off Monday’s matchup like it ended Thursday’s: scoring all the points. The Wildcats led 10-0 less than three minutes in, with four of the five baskets coming in transition, and were up 12-0 before ASU finally scored with 13:16 left in the first half.

The Sun Devils missed their first 12 shots, didn’t reach double figures in scoring until the 4:10 mark and shot a piddly 22.9 percent before halftime.

Arizona shot 53.5 percent but it was far from a stellar offensive performance. The Wildcats turned it over a season-high 17 times, missed 11 free throws—10 after halftime—and were outscored 49-40 in the second half.

The absence of Mathurin was noticeable, as Arizona had only three guards available in the second half and that contributed to the sloppy post-halftime play.

ASU tried to make a game of it by going on a 15-5 run to cut the deficit to 67-56 on a Jaelen House 3-pointer with 3:20 left. Senior guard Remy Martin, who had 21 of his 24 points in the second half, drained a pair of 3s to get the Sun Devils within 71-62 with 2:30 remaining but he then turned it over on back-to-back possessions.

Arizona was 32 of 43 from the line, making 21 of 31 in the second half as ASU tried to extend the game with fouls. There were 30 called in the second half compared to 14 in the first half.

Arizona returns to action Thursday night when it hosts Stanford, the second leg of a 3-game homestand. The Wildcats lost 78-75 to the Cardinal in Santa Cruz, Calif. on Dec. 19.