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Big shots don’t drop for Cats

Citizen Staff Writer



TEMPE – Arizona couldn’t stop freshman James Harden.

In the process, Arizona State stopped Arizona’s 12-game winning streak over the Sun Devils, beating the Cats 64-59 in overtime.

“He did a great job,” Arizona interim head coach Kevin O’Neill said. “He initiates contact. The guy is going to be a high draft pick, if I were to guess. I thought our guys did a decent job on him a couple of times.”

It wasn’t enough.

Harden, ASU’s phenom guard, scored 26 points and gave the Sun Devils the lead before Jeff Pendergraph tipped in a Harden miss with 12.9 seconds to make the score 62-59.

Arizona set up for a final shot to tie the game, but Chase Budinger missed a difficult, off-balance 3-pointer from the top of the key with two seconds left.

“I just tried to shake loose on a handoff and if (Budinger didn’t have the shot) I was going to look at the corners (for an open man),” Budinger said of UA’s final play. “We fumbled the ball on the handoff and after that I had to go into the urgency mode.”

Pendergraph grabbed the rebound and was fouled.

He hit both free throws, time expired and ASU students stormed the court, thankful for the relief from UA’s long dominance.

Arizona entered having won 24 of 25 from the Devils.

The Wildcats played without leading scorer Jerryd Bayless for the third straight game. They are 10-5 overall and 1-2 in the Pacific-10 Conference. ASU is 3-0 and 13-2 overall.

ASU took the lead 56-55 on a Harden free throw with 3:16 left in overtime.

It was the Sun Devils’ first lead since its 4-2 early advantage.

Arizona had taken a 55-50 lead with 1:53 left in regulation when senior Jawann McClellan scored on a baseline move and Eric Boateng was called for blocking.

McClellan converted on the three-point play to give UA the cushion. It came on the heels of a Budinger 3-pointer with 2:42 left.

“When you’re up by five with a minute and half (actually 1:53), that should be your game,” Budinger said.

O’Neill said Arizona appeared to have the Devils down, but let them get up from the mat.

When you do that, “you have a chance to lose,” he said.

“We had some opportunities to win but didn’t finish the job,” O’Neill said. “Both teams played hard. It was a great basketball game. . . . We just couldn’t get a stop when we needed to.”

Ty Abbott hit a deep 3-pointer on ASU’s next possession to make it 55-53 with 1:35 left.

After Jordan Hill was called for traveling, Harden hit a driving shot to give ASU the tie at 55 with 1:01 left in regulation.

“It was a huge possession,” O’Neill said of the call against Hill.

On UA’s next possession, McClellan missed a shot and ASU got the rebound to set up for the final shot.

Harden missed a 3-pointer with three seconds left. In a scramble for the ball, Abbott was called for a foul with 0.4 second left. With Arizona not in the free throw bonus – seven fouls or more – UA had to take the ball out of bounds. Budinger fired up a shot at the buzzer and missed badly.

He missed a lot on Wednesday. Budinger was 4 for 13 from the floor, finishing with 14 points. Hill had 18 points and 14 rebounds, but went 8 for 18 from the floor.

“When Jordan and Chase shoot like they (did) with Jerryd out, it really makes it difficult for us to score,” O’Neill said. “And I thought all of Chase’s shots were all pretty good.”

ASU got back into the game early in the second half by outscoring UA 8-0 in a pivotal stretch when Hill picked up his third foul and was out of the game.

“That really hurt us,” O’Neill said. “We had to go with Bret (Brielmaier) and then Fendi (Onobun).”

In the meantime, Arizona couldn’t score.

“We just couldn’t make shots in the second half,” said Budinger, who went 1 for 6 from the floor in the half.

McClellan hit a 3-pointer with 12:04 left to make it 39-34, but ASU closed the gap when Ty Abbot nailed a 3-pointer with 8:39 left to make it 44-41.

Budinger started slowly.

He didn’t pick up his first points in the second half until the 4:19 mark when he hit two free throws to make it 49-44.

Pendergraph answered Budinger’s charity line shots by making a short jumper.

Arizona suffered a big blow when senior forward Brielmaier went out with a shoulder injury. He sat out about a week last month with a right shoulder separation.

He left the court with 18:33 left in the second half, appearing to favor the right shoulder.

O’Neill said his first indication was that Brielmaier reinjured the shoulder but that was a guess. O’Neill wasn’t sure how long the big forward would be out.

Arizona had a 28-21 halftime lead on the Sun Devils’ court.

The game featured little rhythm, but Arizona found a way to separate itself from the Devils, two-point favorites going into the game.

ASU shot just 33 percent from the floor; UA shot 36 percent.

As expected, UA did not play Bayless, although he warmed up before the game.

He’s out with a sprained right knee. O’Neill decided to open with a smaller lineup, replacing Brielmaier with Daniel Dillon.

O’Neill said he knew Bayless would not play.

He’ll talk with Bayless on Friday to see if he’ll be able to play against Houston on Saturday.

“I’m not going to rush that kid,” O’Neill said. “There’s too much at stake for him personally. I know Jerryd will be back as soon as he can be back because there’s no one that would have wanted to have played in a game like that than Jerryd.”



rebounds by Jordan Hill


turnovers by Chase Budinger


percent UA shot from the 3-point line (6-21)

Player of the game: ASU freshman James Harden, who had a game-high 26 points

Cheers: To Arizona for making a great game of it despite not having star guard Jerryd Bayless, who is out with a knee injury

Jeers: To Hill and Budinger for missing key shots. They combined to shoot 12 of 31 from the floor but tallied 32 points.

Turning point

Arizona had a 55-50 lead with 1:53 left in regulation, but couldn’t hold it, allowing a 3-pointer and a layup by ASU to send the game into overtime.

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