TEMPE – After a frustrating, draining 50 minutes of basketball Friday, the Arizona Wildcats couldn’t wait to leave Wells Fargo Arena.
So they did.
Their usual tough defense and rebounding was unable to fully compensate for a shaky offensive performance in a 69-66 double-overtime loss at ASU, with Sun Devil guard Jermaine Marshall making a go-ahead layup with 14.7 seconds left and Jordan Bachynski blocking a subsequent UA shot before Jahii Carson threw down an exclamation point of a slam before the buzzer.
After all that, and after Nick Johnson’s long three-point attempt at the buzzer missed and ASU fans stormed the court to celebrate the Sun Devils’ first win over a team ranked as high as No. 2, the Wildcats held a locker-room meeting and then quickly bolted for their bus ride home.
No players were allowed to speak to the media and questions for UA coach Sean Miller were cut off after three minutes 11 seconds, roughly a fifth of the usual time.
Maybe that was just as well. Clearly, Miller wasn’t really in the mood to talk about this one.
The Wildcats out-rebounded ASU 54-35, held the Sun Devils to just five offensive rebounds, kept the Sun Devils to just 40 percent overall shooting and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.
But Arizona was even worse offensively. The Wildcats shot 35.9 percent, made only 25 percent of their threes, and, in what was probably the most alarming stat, were just 16 for 30 from the free-throw line.
The Wildcats also had 15 turnovers and just nine assists on their 23 made field goals.
When you have that much trouble scoring, well, maybe nothing else can save you. Not even defense and rebounding.
“Our offense is continuing to put more and more pressure on our defense,” Miller said. “You can only guard so well. We missed a ton of free throws and, heck, we’ve missed a ton of free throws all year.
“Eventually it’s going to run its course and you’re going to lose because we’re leaving too many points on the table. In the first half we had five or six shots that were the best that we can generate and we missed all of them.”
The loss dropped Arizona to 23-2 overall and 10-2 in the Pac-12, entering a road swing to Utah and Colorado next week. ASU improved to 19-6 and 8-4 in the Pac-12, all but clinching an NCAA tournament berth, barring a late-season collapse. Marshall led ASU with 29 points while Carson had 17 points and six assists.
Bachynski, who had eight blocks Friday after recording nine and the game-saver six days earlier against Oregon, won’t be forgetting his last block Friday anytime soon.
“That block will go down, as of right now, as my favorite of all time,” Bachynski said. “Just because I’ve only beaten Arizona once. And to do that when they’re ranked so high and when we’re trying to get into the tournament, that’s a great game on our résumé. Anytime we can beat the Wildcats, it’s really special.”
It was a big change of events from a month ago, when Arizona beat up ASU 91-68 at McKale Center.
“They’re a great team. They play well together and it was a lot of fun,” Bachynski said. “If we didn’t believe we could have won tonight, we wouldn’t have. We believed we could win. That manifested tonight.”
One huge reason things were different this time: Marshall sat out the Jan. 16 game at McKale because of a groin injury.
This time he scored 29 points on 11-for-23 shooting.
“Jermaine Marshall did an outstanding job,” Miller said. “He’s a phenomenal player. It was a low-scoring game so Carson and Marshall combined for 46 of their 69 points so I give those guys a lot of credit. Arizona State is a very good team.”
“We knew coming here it would be a tough game and that’s what we found ourselves in.”
After Marshall hit the go-ahead shot, and Bachynski blocked T.J. McConnell, Carson sprinted downcourt for his emphatic dunk. ASU fans then charged the court with 0.7 seconds left, forcing referees to usher them off the court, just as they had to at Cal when the Wildcats lost there on Feb. 1.
When order was restored, the Wildcats went to Johnson, who threw up a final shot from near the halfcourt line but it bounced off the rim and fans again stormed the court.
Johnson finished with 14 points while McConnell had 17.
The first overtime period was just as crazy as the regulation periods. Carson and Johnson each missed a pair of free throws midway through the first overtime, and with the game tied at 57 with a minute left in the period, Carson turned the ball over on an offensive charge.
But then McConnell threw a pass toward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson that was intercepted, giving ASU the ball with 51 seconds left. Then Carson drove inside but put up an errant layup, and it was UA’s turn to give it a shot with 22 seconds left before Johnson missed a three and Hollis-Jefferson was too far behind the glass to pop his offensive rebound back.
ASU had a chance for a final heave with a second left, but Carson threw up a missed halfcourt shot and the game went into double overtime at 57-57.
In the second half of regulation, the Sun Devils held a 51-49 lead heading into the final minute but a turnover by ASU’s Shaquielle McKissic led to a transition layup from McConnell that tied it at 51 with 41 seconds left.
ASU had the ball with 40 seconds left but Carson couldn’t find a shot or a pass to make and the Sun Devils called timeout with 21.7 seconds left. ASU still couldn’t get off a decent shot afterward, and Carson was called for a turnover, giving UA the ball with 13 seconds left.
But Arizona couldn’t do any better. The Wildcats went to Aaron Gordon with five seconds left, and he missed a hook shot from 8 feet out, and even though Hollis-Jefferson grabbed the rebound, Johnson missed a shot at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.