Desert duel pits Wildcats against Sun Devils

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Updated: 1/16 11:41 am

Tucson, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - Off to the best start in school history, the top-ranked Arizona Wildcats put their perfect record on the line on Thursday evening, as they play host to instate rival Arizona State in a Pac-12 matchup at the McKale Center.

Sean Miller's Wildcats continue to dominate and with each successful venture, strengthen their hold on the No. 1 ranking. Arizona's 17-0 start is the best in school history. The team reached that mark with a 73-53 blasting of USC last weekend, eclipsing the 16-0 mark from the 1931-32 team.

Herb Sendek's Sun Devils will certainly push Arizona to the limit, as ASU comes in with a talent-rich squad that is an impressive 13-4 overall. League play has proved to be more challenging for the Sun Devils, who have split four Pac-12 outings thus far. The team split a pair of games last week in Los Angeles, topping USC (79-60) before falling at UCLA (87-72).

This marks the 225th all-time meeting between these two longtime rivals. Arizona holds a 144-80 series advantage. The Wildcats have won five of the last six meetings overall and three straight in Tucson.

The Sun Devils just couldn't match UCLA's offensive firepower in the 15-point loss to the Bruins last time out. Arizona State was dominated on the glass, getting outrebounded 42-29 and was outscored at the free-throw line, 26-14. Jermaine Marshall did what he could to keep ASU in the game, posting a game- high 25 points, thanks in large part to a 5-of-8 showing from behind the arc. Jordan Bachynski added 14 points to the cause, while Jonathan Gilling checked in with 10 points. Star guard Jahii Carson however, struggled. The sophomore playmaker was just 4-of-17 shooting in the game and finished well below his season average with just nine points.

Carson is one of the Pac-12's rising stars. The 5-foot-10 youngster leads the team in both scoring (18.1 ppg) and assists (4.6 apg). Marshall is a solid backcourt mate, adding a hefty 15.6 ppg to the mix, while delivering on 46 percent from behind the arc (46-of-100). Bachynski is a force in the middle for ASU. The seven-footer is averaging a near double-double (12.7 ppg, 9.4 rpg) and ranks first in the nation in blocked shots (4.6 per game). Overall, the Sun Devils have enjoyed solid play at both ends of the floor and own a +12.5 scoring margin as a result.

No team in the country has played as well and balanced at both ends than Arizona. The Wildcats own a +19.0 scoring margin, rank seventh nationally with a +10.7 rebounding edge, while ranking fourth nationally in scoring defense (56.0 ppg) and seventh in field-goal percentage defense (.371). Guard Nick Johnson leads the way offensively at 16.3 ppg. Forwards Aaron Gordon (12.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and Brandon Ashley (12.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) provide frontcourt balance. The remainder of the starting five consists of center Kaleb Tarczewski (9.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and point guard T.J. McConnell (7.2 ppg, 6.2 apg).

Ashley and McConnell led the way with 19 points each, as Arizona easily dispatched the Trojans last time out in a 20-point rout. Johnson added 15 points, while Gordon finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. The Wildcats played suffocating defense along the way, as USC turned the ball over a costly 18 times, compared to just eight miscues for the visiting Wildcats.

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