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February 22, 2010

Sun Devils shoot down Wildcats to stay in hunt

Asked recently about his habit of listening to music on his iPod instead of partaking in a portion of Arizona State's pre-game shoot around on the road, junior Ty Abbott said it helps him focus on the task at hand.

The selection is always the same, Abbott said: popular hip-hop artist Lil' Wayne and in particular a couple different versions of a mix tape track called "Demolition Man."

On Sunday, Abbott delivered a wrecking ball to the collective gut of 14,631 fans in attendance, the vast majority of whom were decked out in red and blue in Arizona State's 73-69 over rival Arizona at McKale Center in Tucson.

It may not have been a total demolition, but many UA faithful no doubt left the arena feeling crushed.

For the third year in a row -- since Abbott and his classmates joined the program -- the Sun Devils were victorious in Tucson.

Abbott had all of his game-high 28 points in the game's first 31 minutes and the Sun Devils received a strong supporting nod from senior Jerren Shipp, who had eight key second half points.

The win moved ASU to 19-8 overall and 9-5 in the Pac-10, a half-game behind Cal in the Pac-10 race with four games left. With a potential NCAA Tournament at-large bid at stake down the stretch, the Sun Devils will visit the Golden Bears Saturday, after a Thursday game at Stanford.

"He had a spectacular performance for us," ASU coach Herb Sendek said of Abbott, who hit 11-of-17 shots from the field on the afternoon. "He was the key difference in that game but everyone pitched in at times. He's had a terrific year. He's playing with a lot of confidence and his teammates have a lot of trust in him."

Arizona, which fell to 13-13 overall and 7-7 in the Pac-10, will almost certainly miss the NCAA Tournament for first time in 26 years unless it can win the Pac-10 Tournament in Los Angeles in three weeks.

The Wildcats were led by Nic Wise, who had 18 points, and Derrick Williams with 15 points.

With the win, ASU extracted a measure of revenge against the Wildcats, who wiped the floor with the Sun Devils in their 77-58 win last month in Tempe and then talked about it afterward -- or at least tweeted about it.

UA freshman Kevin Parrom fouled Abbott hard from behind and let everyone know of his "No Easy Buckets" mantra on the popular microblogging website Twitter, providing a little extra fuel for the rivalry rematch in Tucson.

"Considering who this was, I'd say yes, this was the best game," Abbott said. "We wanted to win against U of A and we did that."

Much like the game in Tempe, this one also involved a physical play that led to much discussion following the game.

Immediately prior to the game's final buzzer, with the game's outcome already decided, Parrom appeared to extend his forearm or elbow into ASU senior Derek Glasser, and Wildcats coach Sean Miller quickly jumped between the two men and commanded Parrom to leave the floor for the UA locker room prior to the teams' handshakes.

"I love to see guys that are disappointed with a loss, but we don't do anything other than that. I apologize to Arizona State," Miller said.

The two teams traded the lead numerous times in the first half before ASU surged ahead with a 9-0 lead at the end of the first period to make it a 30-25 advantage.

Hot-shooting in the second half -- Arizona shot 57.9 percent and ASU shot 66.7 percent -- made the period exciting but the Sun Devils maintained a modest advantage throughout the bulk of the period, with Shipp providing a boost down the stretch. He had all of his points in the game's final 5:39.

"Heck of a win for us," Glasser said. "Best of the year, for sure."


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