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Citizen Staff Writer



TEMPE – Arizona’s basketball team fumbled away its chance at avoiding a sweep against host Arizona State on Sunday night.

“We fought back the whole game,” said UA’s Nic Wise, after UA fell to ASU 70-68 at sold-out Wells Fargo Arena. “That’s one thing about our team compared to last year. We don’t quit. We were down 17 (in the second half) and then we went up two.

“I’m proud of my guys. There were a couple of plays we could have made down the stretch, but they didn’t go our way.”

In the final 4 seconds, Wise mishandled the ball at midcourt, creating a scramble for the ball and preventing UA from getting off a shot for a tie or the win.

“I was completely covered,” said Wise, who finished with 17 points and helped key a 23-4 UA run in the second half. “You get the ball with five seconds left and of course you’re going to try to make something happen. I just couldn’t get it past half court. And that was it.”

The loss ended a seven-game win streak for UA (18-9, 8-6 Pac-10) with four regular-season games left. But the Wildcats are still optimistic they can reach their 25th straight NCAA Tournament.

“We’re still good; it’s just a bump in the road,” Wise said. “We’re now geared to Washington State (because) that’s all we can do.”

UA faces a tough road swing this week: at Washington State on Thursday and at Washington on Saturday. WSU is coming off an upset win at UCLA. Washington (20-7, 11-4) leads the Pac-10 by a half-game over ASU (21-5, 10-4).

Arizona’s win streak ended Sunday when UA’s Jordan Hill missed a one-handed five-footer and Zane Johnson missed what appeared to be a “point blank tip that didn’t go” in the final 20 seconds, according to UA interim coach Russ Pennell.

“You can’t ask for anything more on that play,” said UA’s Chase Budinger, who had 13 points and nine rebounds.

Johnson was unavailable to the media. Hill said he was fouled on the play.

“I got pushed,” he said. “Just look at the game again.”

Pennell said Hill “may have been” fouled, but he added that the team had a chance to control its own destiny but failed. Pennell said that wasn’t the case in the last meeting in Tucson, when Hill was called for an illegal screen with UA down by two with 0:11 left. UA eventually lost 53-47.

On Sunday night, just moments before his last-second miss, Hill was called for a foul with 25.6 seconds left in an attempt to block Jeff Pendergraph’s shot.

“That was a block, a clean block,” Hill said. “The refs called it the other way. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

Arizona started the second half like it finished the first – not well.

The Wildcats went 2 for 14 in the first eight minutes of the second half and ASU slowly gained a bigger lead at 56-42.

The ASU crowd then started to ask the UA fans in attendance: “Why so quiet?”

It’s because up to that point, UA had no answer. Hill was ineffective. Budinger couldn’t hit shots. Wise was a nonfactor.

Then things changed.

UA went on a 12-4 run from there to close the gap to 60-54 with 5:41 left then added five more points to extend its streak to 17-4. By then, ASU held a 60-59 lead with 4:43 left and called a timeout to regroup. It didn’t work.

Arizona’s Jamelle Horne hit a 3-pointer to give UA its first lead (62-60) since it was up 10-9 with 12 minutes left.

“I was real happy how the team came back but that really didn’t surprise me,” Pennell said. “That’s been our MO all year. We don’t give up and we keep battling and fighting.

“I felt like Arizona State shot the ball so incredibly well in the first half. We needed to get a hand in their faces. We didn’t feel our defense was where it needed to be.”

ASU’s James Harden was able to stop UA’s 23-4 run with a basket after an offensive rebound. He scored with 3:37 left, making it 62-62.

The Sun Devils shot 41.7 percent in the second half, compared to 66 percent in the first half. It limited ASU to 3 for 14 from the 3-point line after giving up 10 3-pointers in the first half.

“That’s what our defense does – it’s kind of fool’s gold,” said Wise.

“When you get off hot and hit threes, you tend to keep shooting them and then they get tired in the second half.”

The teams traded baskets for the next three possessions with Hill giving UA a 66-65 lead with 2:29 left.

After a Budinger miss, ASU’s Rihards Kuksiks nailed a 3-pointer – his fifth to that point – to give ASU a 68-66 lead with 1:16 left. It was his second trey in just more than a minute.

“Those two shots he made at the end were lifesavers for us,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said.

Hill tied it at 68 after a Wise miss with 55 seconds left.

It all added up to UA just not playing well enough to win. Despite their comeback, the Wildcats trailed 44-34 at halftime – the most points they have allowed in a half this season.

ASU, meanwhile, played one of its better games this season to sweep the Wildcats for the second straight season. The Sun Devils have now beaten UA four straight times. That hasn’t happened since the 1982-83 season, when ASU won nine straight.


Arizona (18-9, 8-6) at Washington St. (14-13, 6-9)

When: 7 p.m. Thursday


Radio: 1290 AM, 107.5 FM


With the game tied at 68 with 26 seconds left, UA’s Jordan Hill was called for a foul. ASU’s Jeff Pendergraph hit two free throws for the final points of the game.


13 Three-pointers made by ASU, including 10 in the first half

11 steals by Arizona, compared to only five by the Sun Devils

20 combined shots missed by Chase Budinger and Nic Wise in 30 attempts. Budinger was 5 of 16, Wise was 5 of 14


School Conf. Overall

Washington 11-4 20-7

Arizona State 10-4 21-5

California 9-5 20-7

UCLA 9-5 20-7

Arizona 8-6 18-9

USC 7-7 16-10

Oregon State 7-8 13-13

Washington State 6-9 14-13

Stanford 4-10 15-10

Oregon 1-14 7-20


Thursday’s games: Arizona at Washington State, 7 p.m.; UCLA at Stanford, 8 p.m.; USC at California, 8:30 p.m.; Arizona State at Washington, 9 p.m.

Saturday’s games: Arizona at Washington, 1 p.m.; Arizona State at Washington State, 3 p.m.; USC at Stanford, 6 p.m.; UCLA at California, 7 p.m.

Sunday’s game: Oregon State at Oregon, 8 p.m.

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