It’s not every season that ASU fans get to see their men’s basketball team beat UA at home.
The fans were so eager on Friday that after ASU redshirt sophomore point guard Jahii Carson dunked the ball with 0.7 seconds left, a sea of gold rushed onto the court.
It wasn’t over, so officials told the fans to leave the court to play out the remaining time. After UA junior guard Nick Johnson missed a half-court heave, the scoreboard read ASU 69, UA 66 with no time left, permitting the fans to continue their celebration at center court.
The Sun Devils (19-6, 8-4 Pac-12) only defeated five teams ranked in the top-five in their program history. The No. 2 Wildcats (22-2, 10-2 Pac-12) was the highest-ranked team the Sun Devils have ever defeated.
“No words can explain the joy that we feel right now,” ASU senior center Jordan Bachynski said. “Huge for us, for our resume, our goals of postseason tournament. Tonight was huge for us.”
It took the Sun Devils two overtime periods to knock off the second-ranked team in the nation. The largest lead by either team was six points. Both teams answered each other with runs and pivotal baskets that extended the game past regulation.
It was also a game of which team had the least mistakes. UA went 16-of-23 from the free-throw line and committed 15 turnovers, while ASU shot 15-of-26 from the charity stripe and coughed up the ball 11 times. Neither team could close the game at the end of the game due to poor foul shooting.
ASU was happy to have senior guard Jermaine Marshall back, who missed the first meeting in Tucson on Jan. 16 with a groin injury.
Marshall scored 29 points on 11-of-23 shooting and scored the Sun Devils’ last seven points in second overtime before Carson’s dunk.
“His presence means a lot,” Carson said. “Defenses have to focus on him, and there’s games where he scores 12 points, but the focus that the defense has to put on him takes a huge toll and we’re able to score more. Then when they forget about him, that makes huge contributions to our team.”
Lost in the madness was another huge defensive performance from ASU senior center Jordan Bachynski.
Bachynski pulled down seven rebounds and had eight blocks. With six seconds left in second overtime, he swatted UA sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski’s shot in the paint, which led to Carson’s dunk at the end.
ASU coach Herb Sendek pointed out it was the third time this season ASU needed a late block from Bachynski to win the game.
“Sometimes, when something becomes so common you stop paying attention to it,” Sendek said. “I mean, we’re not talking two or three or four blocks, we’re talking nine against Oregon and eight tonight. That’s crazy.”
ASU had trouble finding a consistent flow on offense all night, as the Sun Devils shot 24-for-60 (40 percent) from the field. Unlike the first game, however, ASU battled with the Wildcats inside and only allowed UA to shoot 35.9 percent from the field. It also helped that the Wildcats kept missing their free throws.
“Our defense allowed us to hang around in the neighborhood,” Sendek said.
ASU had a 51-46 lead with 2:38 left in regulation, but UA scored five unanswered points to force overtime and nearly won when Johnson missed a shot off freshman forward Aaron Gordon’s missed jump hook.
The Sun Devils were up again for most of the first overtime, but Tarczewski kept getting to the foul line and made all of his free throws. UA had a chance to end the game on another final possession but Johnson missed a jumper once again.
Marshall didn’t score at all in the first overtime period. After Gordon made a layup that pushed UA to a 63-59 lead with 1:57 remaining in second overtime, he needed to get back to scoring.
Marshall hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:34 seconds left. After two free throws from Tarczewski, Marshall hit another 3-pointer from the opposite wing. After Gordon split a pair of free throws, Marshall capped off his late-game by making a tough layup with 14 seconds.
“I was just trying to score as fast as possible and cut the lead as fast as possible,” Marshall said.
Marshall, Bachynski and Carson combined for 59 of ASU’s 69 points.
Junior point guard T.J. McConnell led all UA scorers with 17 points. Tarczewski (13 points and 13 rebounds) and Gordon (13 points and 13 rebounds) both had double-doubles.
Even with the historic upset that boosted their chances of making the NCAA Tournament even higher, the Sun Devils aren’t going to celebrate for long. With just two home games left in the regular season, ASU can’t afford to ease up.
“If we don’t take care of business over the next couple of weeks, we won’t get to the tournament,” Bachynski said. “We have to act like we need every game like we’re still on the bubble. We can’t let this game get to our head. As much fun as it was winning, we have to keep our eyes on the prize.
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