ASU looks to bounce back in the win column Saturday in its only game this weekend.
And it’s against its in-state rival, No. 7 UA.
Tickets are sold out for what is one of the most anticipated matchups between the Sun Devils (14-3, 3-1 Pac-12) and the Wildcats (15-1, 3-1 Pac-12) in nearly four years, given both of their early season success.
“There’s excitement, but certainly I expect the atmosphere to be electric,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said during Tuesday’s teleconference. “But I think this game in particular always brings that kind of pageantry and excitement.”
ASU’s start is a bit of a surprise considering its 3-1 start in Pac-12 play.
The Sun Devils split their first conference road trip last weekend, defeating Oregon State but losing to Oregon.
UA did the same thing last weekend, but it was an upset loss to Oregon that ended its perfect season.
The Sun Devils and the Wildcats are 4-1 against common opponents this season — Texas Tech, Utah, Colorado, Oregon State and Oregon — and they’ve nearly mirrored one another in those contests.
“I think they’re an excellent team,” UA coach Sean Miller said during Tuesday’s teleconference. “Sometimes, when you say a team is much improved, it doesn’t mean that they’re good. I not only think that they’re much improved from a year ago, but I think that they’re one of the best teams in our conference.”
Redshirt freshman guard Jahii Carson recorded 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists in ASU’s loss to Oregon 68-65. He’s starting to gain national recognition for his play, including from the opposing coach. Miller said Carson is an electric player that’s fun to watch for ASU.
“He gets the ball out in transition,” Miller said. “He gets his teammates easy shots and then you look at how it easy it is for him to get to the foul line and score himself. From an offensive prospective, they have an element that very few teams have.”
The spotlight will be on when he faces his friend, sophomore guard Nick Johnson, for the first time.
Johnson is third on the team with 12.3 points a game and he’s shooting 45.5 percent from the floor. Senior guard Mark Lyons leads the Wildcats with 14.6 points a game.
UA and ASU are third and fifth in the conference in scoring offense and fourth and fifth in scoring defense. The two teams are similarly ranked in nearly every statistical category, except for free throw percentage and blocked shots.
The Wildcats are first in the conference making 75.9 percent of their free throws, while the Sun Devils are last at 61.5 percent.
ASU however is one of the best shot blocking teams in the country and block 3.5 shots more a game than the Wildcats. Junior center Jordan Bachynski leads the conference with 4.47 blocked shots a game, more than UA’s 4 blocked shots per game average.
“He’s a great shot blocker, and he’s become a good scorer,” Miller said. “It’s so hard to ask somebody of that size to affect the game defensively. … He rebounds, he block shots and he scores in double figures. He’s learned how to score with his back to the basket and really develop. I think he’s one of the best players in our conference.”
Tip-off is at 12:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Net and 620 AM.
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