Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Arizona Wildcats Pick & Prediction FEBRUARY 28th 2024

After a historic loss in the first meeting this season against its in-state rival, Arizona State will get a second chance at No. 6 Arizona on Wednesday night in Tempe, Ariz. The Sun Devils (14-14, 8-9 Pac-12) will be hoping that home-court advantage helps turn around the outcome from Feb. 17, when the Wildcats (21-6, 12-4) won 105-60 in Tucson, Ariz., posting a record margin of victory in the lengthy series history. That might be a lot to ask for Arizona State, but strange things do happen in college basketball. Consider that Arizona followed its win over Arizona State with its first home loss of the season — 77-74 to then-No. 21 Washington State. The Cougars, who had taken over first place in the Pac-12, then surprisingly fell at Arizona State, 73-61. “We know they’re going to respond,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said of the Wildcats, referring to the teams’ first matchup. “They’re a streaky team. The way they play is hard to play against, and I’m sure they’re going to come out spirited with great effort. We respect them as a rival. … We definitely expect them to come out, and I’m sure they’ll be in a respond mode.” Arizona has won three consecutive games at Arizona State but holds just a 6-5 edge in Tempe in the past 12 years. The Wildcats shot 57.1 percent in this season’s first meeting, accelerating away from ASU after holding a 49-31 halftime lead. Arizona outscored the Sun Devils 56-29 in the second half. As in the first meeting, Arizona State’s biggest challenge figures to be rebounding. Arizona, which entered the week ranked third nationally in rebounding margin (plus-11.1 per game), dominated the glass by a 46-28 margin on Feb. 17. The Wildcats also had a 52-16 advantage in points in the paint, as well as a 26-9 edge in fast-break points. Oumar Ballo, a 7-foot center, has posted seven consecutive double-doubles and has boosted his per game averages to that level — 13.2 points, 10.0 boards. Arizona State’s path to victory, as it was against Washington State, is to create chaos on defense. The Sun Devils held the Cougars to 39.3 percent shooting and forced 11 turnovers. “It comes back to our defense and guarding with purpose and energy,” Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley said. “We were flying around, in the right spots, and getting deflections. We can be pretty dynamic getting out into the open court and it leads to our offense.” Arizona State, however, only forced five turnovers in the first meeting against the Wildcats. Caleb Love leads Arizona with 19.4 points per game. Pelle Larsson is averaging 13.0, followed by Keshad Johnson at 11.6. Love, a senior transfer from North Carolina, reached 2,000 career points on Saturday. “He’s an incredible basketball player, and I think he’s got a really bright future,” Lloyd said. “We’re lucky to have him.” Frankie Collins is the straw that stirs the drink for ASU, averaging 13.8 points with a school season-record 78 steals. Collins shoots only 29.6 percent (37 of 125) from 3-point range, however. Arizona State is a poor shooting team from distance, hitting just 31.0 percent for the season. –Field Level Media

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