Mark Lyons, driving the ball past Jordin Mayes, scored 13 points and had four assists in 25 minutes.


As proud curator of a rivalry it long possessed, Arizona loathes the idea of getting Sendecked year after year after year.

It abhors the reality that the Sun Devils are in a better place, and are a better team, and that the Big Brother vs. Little Brother theme to the UA-ASU series is as outdated as a pay telephone in an airport.

The series that used to be a dream is now a scream. ASU has won six of its last seven games against Arizona, and three straight at McKale Center, and no matter how much you want to deny it, the Sun Devils have become a bully, the most imposing team on Arizona's schedule.

Before the Wildcats can claim they have returned to power in college basketball, they must first learn how to successfully deal with Superb Herb, whose amoeba-like zone defense and his never-take-a-bad-shot offense continues to stop Arizona in its sneakers.

In Sunday's 73-69 victory at McKale, Herb Sendek's team so frustrated the Wildcats that UA freshman Kevin Parrom delivered a forearm shiver to ASU guard Derek Glasser as the clock hit zero.

After Glasser was restrained by those on the Sun Devil bench - and Parrom was sent to Arizona's locker room while Sean Miller immediately apologized to Sendek and Glasser - a Zona Zoo fan carrying a "No Easy Baskets" placard dropped it in the aisle, leaving it for the cleanup crew.

Which is where he belonged Sunday.

It was Parrom's hard play and hustle that created the "No Easy Baskets" theme after Arizona whipped ASU a month ago in Tempe. But this time, the Sun Devils had so many easy baskets that they shot 72 percent in the first 15 minutes of the second half and made a star out of Ty Abbott, who had been anything but.

The Sun Devils played so well that it made you forget about Arizona. I actually think, given its resources, Arizona played well enough to beat almost any other Pac-10 team Sunday.

"You can be as analytical and as complicated as you want, but when the ball goes in the basket it makes a world of difference," Sendek said.

In Tempe, the Sun Devils shot .302 afield, which meant there were a lot of go-the-other-way rebounds that led to a flurry of Arizona transition baskets. But this time, the Wildcats didn't attempt their first fast-break shot until 2:11 remained in the first half, and didn't actually make one until the game's final 90 seconds, when they trailed 69-62.

It usually comes down to percentages in college hoops, and on a night your opponent shoots 16 for 24 in the second half (including five three-pointers) you're bound to lose.

"We grinded 'em," Glasser said. "We didn't let them force us into bad shots. We took the shots we wanted to take."

One thing these new Wildcat players and coaches probably don't yet grasp is that ASU looks at a game against Arizona the way Arizona used to look at a game at UCLA. Although the Wildcats are a mere 13-13 - Miller called his team "mediocre" in the post-game briefing - both Glasser and Abbott called it "the best win of the year" for the Sun Devils.

Really? The Sun Devils beat Washington when the Huskies were No. 24.

I don't know if this UA team is ready to take the best shot of any team that has 19 victories and expect to survive.

Miller doesn't use cop-out excuses, doesn't hammer at the fact his team is young or in transition or ask for patience.

He takes these setbacks with considerable agony, but his next alibi will be the first.

On Sunday, he seemed a bit miffed that too few people give the Sun Devils credit.

"Herb Sendek is in his fourth year at ASU and he has his system completely in place," Miller said. "He has some older players in place, who've played for the Pac-10 tournament championship and in the NCAA tournament.

"They have a lot of good things and they've earned the right to be a good team."

By comparison, Arizona has been together for 78 practices and 26 games, and they are desperately in need of someone like Abbott, or Rihards Kuksiks, who can knock down a jumper instead of trying to force the ball inside to Derrick Williams, who usually had three Sun Devils surrounding him.

And when was the last time Arizona would have admitted that ASU had the kind of players it coveted? When, 1982?

On ASU's final possession of the first half Sunday, with UA trailing 27-25, Miller instructed his players to make sure Abbott and Kuksiks didn't get an open look. So when the Sun Devils in-bounded the ball, one Wildcat immediately abandoned Abbott and double-teamed center Eric Boateng, who is ASU's No. 4 option, and virtually no threat.

Bingo. Abbott swished a three-pointer to give ASU a 30-25 lead that it wouldn't relinquish.

Miller's eyes bulged and his blood pressure probably shot into the red zone. Remaking a college basketball team can do that to you.

"Our team has to get better; we're mediocre," he said. "I don't want it to be OK to lose."

And especially not to the Sun Devils.