UA is just another name on the schedule for ASU coach Herb Sendek.
The Territorial Cup matchup is a critical game for every ASU sports team, but Sendek, who is 7-7 against the Wildcats, treats it as equally as every other game of the season.
“The truth of the matter is we feel about it in every one,” he said. “They’re all big. Hopefully, we do our best every time, and so it’s not possible to do any more than that.”
Meanwhile, redshirt freshman guard Jahii Carson is looking forward to his first game at McKale Center.
“It’s definitely a hostile environment down there,” Carson said. “One of the loudest arenas in the country. It’s my first time down there, so I want to go down there and make a statement. It’s the first time for people in Tucson to watch me play, watch our team play. It’s a different style of basketball we’re playing this year. Definitely want to go out there and get an upset. Have our fans look something to forward to.”
A win over rival UA (23-6, 11-6 Pac-12) in Tucson could revive the Sun Devils (20-10, 9-8 Pac-12) heading into the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas next week.
The Sun Devils’ NCAA Tournament hopes were decimated after ASU dropped five of its last seven games.
“We know what’s on the line, and we know what we have to do,” senior wing Carrick Felix said. “We know what it takes to take care of business, and it takes from each individual and the coaches. Knowing that, I think we have the right mind right now going into this weekend.”
The Sun Devils last won in Tucson on Feb. 21, 2010. UA took the first meeting in Tempe 71-54 on Jan. 19.
The Sun Devils’ 54 points against UA in January remains as ASU’s lowest scoring output of the season. The Sun Devils’ 39.1 percent shooting from the field in that loss is also a season low. ASU committed 17 turnovers in the first meeting, which was its second highest single-game total of the year.
“Taking care of the basketball is always important, especially so against a team like Arizona who works so quickly and so efficiently on the other end, and that’s certainly led to too many points in our standpoint and in transition in our first game,” Sendek said.
Felix hopes to bounce back after shooting 1-for-8 in the first game.
“I remember how I played,” Felix said. “I’m definitely ready to come back and have a good game in this one. It’s something to laugh about. It’s one of those games for the career, but it’s definitely going to be fun this weekend.”
While ASU dropped both games in its Los Angeles road trip last weekend, UA didn’t see much success on the same trip either.
Despite senior wing Kevin Parrom’s 21-point outing, the Wildcats fell to USC by 11 points on Feb. 27. They followed that up by a five-point loss to UCLA Saturday.
ASU will have senior guard Chris Colvin this time around. He was suspended for the first matchup in Tempe.
Without a reliable backup point guard in Colvin, Carson was forced to play heavy minutes despite being in foul trouble the entire game. Carson played most of the second half with four fouls and the UA backcourt attacked Carson.
Carson is looking forward to having Colvin on the court to guard UA stand out guards sophomore Nick Johnson and senior Mark Lyons.
“He’s the tougher guy,” he said. “They didn’t really get the chance to see and feel his physicality that he brings to the court. Some of the guards that like to drive the paint more, he’s not going to let you do that as much. He takes a lot of pressure off me when it comes to playing defense against Johnson and Lyons. He takes me off the court and allows me to score from the two-guard spot.”
Besides the Territorial Cup points, a victory would also help ASU’s seeding for the Pac-12 Tournament.
A win over UA could give ASU the No. 6 seed, but falling to the Wildcats could bump the Sun Devils down to as low as the No. 9 seed.
“It’s definitely important for us to have a high seed in the tournament, but we just want to worry about getting this win,” Felix said. “We’re ready to battle.”
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