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Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Feb 15, 2024 8:20 pm

Streaking No. 5 Arizona eyes payback against ASU

oumar

Arizona State will be reminded of one of its most thrilling moments when it plays at No. 5 Arizona on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz.

The Sun Devils (13-12, 7-7 Pac-12) capped a wild comeback in McKale Center last season when they overcame a 10-point deficit with 6:30 to go, winning 89-88 on Desmond Cambridge Jr.’s half-court heave at the buzzer.

Last year’s game in Tucson marked Arizona third-year head coach Tommy Lloyd’s only loss to rival ASU in five tries, and he enters this matchup with his Wildcats (19-5, 10-3) leading the Pac-12 and perhaps playing their best ball of the season.

Arizona has won five consecutive games, including road wins at Oregon, Utah and Colorado. Each of those opponents had been undefeated at home until playing the Wildcats.

A trio of seniors lead the way for Arizona – Caleb Love (18.9 points per game), Oumar Ballo (13.0 points; 9.8 rebounds per game) and Pelle Larsson (13.4 points per game and the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week).

But 18-year-old sophomore Kylan Boswell is showing signs of breaking out of a slump, while sophomore Jaden Bradley and freshman KJ Lewis are increasingly important high-energy defenders off the bench who help make the Wildcats deep and versatile.

“Our young guys are making a huge difference right now,” Lloyd said. “Our young guys are veterans. To see them take that step is really exciting for our team.”

The biggest challenge for Arizona State, which has won two in a row – at Utah and Wednesday night’s 79-61 home victory over Oregon State – figures to be rebounding.

ASU has a minus-7.2 rebounding edge for the season. Arizona is at plus-11.0. Ballo has posted four consecutive double-doubles and has a total of 55 rebounds in that span.

“‘O’ is a dominant big,” Lloyd said. “We know (Purdue’s) Zach Edey is in a class of his own, but I think when O is playing at his highest level, he wants to be one of those next guys.”

ASU coach Bobby Hurley has put 7-footer Shawn Phillips Jr. into the starting lineup for the past three games. Bryant Selebangue also is seeing an uptick in playing time in the post.

“I’m sure it certainly helps. It puts bigger bodies on the floor,” Hurley said. “Physically, we match up a little more traditionally to our opponent and we have good rebounders at the guard positions. So now with Sean and Bryant, their ability to rebound helps in that regard.”

ASU’s go-to guy is point guard Frankie Collins, averaging a team-high 13.7 points, although he is shooting only 29.0 percent from 3-point range (31 of 107). He’s a whirlwind on defense, needing three steals to tie the school season record of 76, set by Lafayette Lever in 1982.

“We know they are going to come in here and give great effort,” Lloyd said of ASU. “They have some really talented individual players.

“They’re probably one of the most aggressive defensive teams we will have played all year. And offensively, they have ability to make difficult shots. So we’ve got to be dialed in.”

–Field Level Media

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