LOS ANGELES - Arizona State extended its recent domination of Arizona on Thursday, putting the Wildcats’ long NCAA tournament streak in jeopardy.
ASU coach Herb Sendek doesn’t believe there should be a cause for debate.
“Admittedly biased, but I think our league is as deep and as talented and as balanced as any in the country,” Sendek said after the 23rd-ranked Sun Devils beat Arizona 68-56 in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 tournament. “Do I believe Arizona is one of the top 65 teams in the country? I would say yes. As competitors, we have great respect for them.”
Pac-10 player of the year James Harden had 27 points and eight rebounds for the fourth-seeded Sun Devils (23-8), who won for just the second time in their last five games. Ty Abbott added 11 points and Jeff Pendergraph had 10 points and nine rebounds for ASU, which advanced to Friday night’s semifinals against No. 13 Washington. The top-seeded Huskies beat ninth-seeded Stanford 85-73 in Thursday’s second quarterfinal game.
“I think the biggest challenge for us right now will be recovery,” said Sendek, who used only seven players against Arizona. ASU is playing without top reserve Jamelle McMillan, sidelined with a sore groin.
Jordan Hill had 20 points and 13 rebounds and Nic Wise added 18 points for fifth-seeded Arizona (19-13), which has appeared in 24 straight NCAA tournaments, the longest active streak and second-longest behind the 27-year streak by North Carolina from 1975-2001.
The Wildcats, losers of five of their last six games, will find out Sunday if their NCAA tournament streak is extended when the brackets are announced. Arizona sweated out the selections last year before drawing a 10th seed and losing to West Virginia in the first round.
“It’s just out of our hands,” said interim coach Russ Pennell, hired when Hall of Famer Lute Olson officially retired in October after sitting out last season on a personal leave of absence. “We’ll be just like everyone else sitting there watching on Sunday. It just boils down to at the end of the day, is our body of work good enough?”
The Wildcats have beaten the likes of Kansas, Gonzaga and UCLA but went 9-9 in the Pac-10.
“Whatever happens on Sunday is whatever happens,” said Wildcats star Chase Budinger, held to eight points on 3-for-15 shooting including 1-for-9 from 3-point range. “We’re going to be practicing and watching film, just keep on playing the season. We’re just going to try to get better as a team, forget about the past and look forward.”
The win gave ASU a three-game sweep of Arizona this season and was its fifth straight over the Wildcats — the Sun Devils’ longest winning streak over their in-state rival since they won nine in a row from 1979-83.
“For me, it feels great, never losing to U of A in my career so far,” said Harden, a 6-foot-5 sophomore. “They had the upside for most of the years, so it just feels great and it is special to be a part of that. They are a great team and a powerhouse, and we are working to make this team a powerhouse as well.”
The Wildcats dominated the Sun Devils during Olson’s 24 years as their coach, going 43-6 against ASU, which had seven coaches during that time. Olson attended this game and was warmly greeted by Arizona fans. He acknowledged the applause with a wave.
Sendek is 5-2 against the Wildcats since becoming the ASU coach before the 2006-07 season.
“In the second half, we couldn’t get anything to fall, and I credit Arizona State’s defense for that,” Pennell said. “They do a nice job defensively. Basically, I call it a bend-but-don’t-break. They just don’t give you anything easy, you have to earn everything you get against ASU.”
ASU shot 52.1 percent to Arizona’s 35.5 percent, winning handily despite being outrebounded 36-30. There were only 14 turnovers in the game — eight by the Wildcats.
Harden scored eight points during a 14-5 run to start the second half, giving the Sun Devils a 46-39 lead, and a 3-pointer by Rihards Kuksiks and a dunk by Harden made it 60-48 with 5:13 remaining. The Wildcats scored the next six points to draw within six, but ASU scored the game’s final six points from the foul line.
ASU shot 7-of-9 to begin the game en route to an 18-11 lead. Abbott, averaging 6.3 points, had eight at that stage.
The Sun Devils then went cold, missing eight straight shots while being outscored 11-0 to fall behind 22-18. Neither team led by more than four points during the rest of the first half, which ended with the Wildcats on top 34-32.
Hill got off to a slow start, missing his first four shots, but the 6-foot-10 junior finished the half with 10 points and six rebounds, leading Arizona to a 17-10 advantage in that department.
No. 15 UCLA 64, Washington State 53
Knowing a few more victories could help improve its seeding in the NCAA tournament, No. 15 UCLA went after Washington State from the opening tipoff.
Darren Collison scored 15 points in the Bruins’ victory that extended their winning streak to five games.
The Bruins (25-7) advanced to Friday’s semifinals against crosstown rival Southern California, a 79-75 winner over California. The second-seeded Bruins swept the sixth-seeded Trojans (19-12) in the regular season.
“The team felt great. Everybody was really in it,” Collison said. “When our intensity is at a high level, it’s going to be real tough to beat us.”
Washington State sure found that out.
Aron Baynes was the only player in double figures with 22 points for the Cougars (17-15), who shot 30 percent from the floor. The big Aussie was limited to six rebounds.
“I thought we got out-toughed today,” Cougars coach Tony Bennett said. “How we needed to play didn’t show itself until near the end. They came out ready and took it right to us.”
Washington State used a 13-4 run over the end of the first half and start of the second to close to 33-24, capped by Taylor Rochestie’s 3-pointer, his only field goal of the game.
The Cougars didn’t get within single digits again until the final minute.
With Collison smothering him, Rochestie was 1-for-11 for eight points, while freshman Klay Thompson was 2-of-11 for five points.
“We did a really good job defensively,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “That’s definitely one of our best defensive efforts in quite a while and that’s what it takes to win in postseason play.”
Rochestie scored a career-high 33 points in his team’s 82-81 victory at Pauley Pavilion last month.
“When a team is up on you like that and basically controlled the game, you have to give them credit. We weren’t getting any defensive stops,” he said. “They just did their thing. The UCLA defense is a lot of pressure. We had to hit some shots and we didn’t. We had to get some stops and we didn’t.”
UCLA scored seven in a row, hitting five of six free throws, to go up 40-24. The Cougars answered with six consecutive points, but still trailed 40-30.
Four straight free throws by Collison and Alfred Aboya pushed UCLA’s lead to 51-32 with 7:57 remaining, giving coach Ben Howland a chance to rest his starters until reinserting all of them late. Nikola Dragovic added 12 points, and Josh Shipp and freshman Jrue Holiday had 10 points each.
The Cougars struggled offensively in the first half, hitting just 7-of-34 from the floor while the Bruins shot 41 percent and led 33-21.
Baynes scored Washington State’s first five points to put the Cougars ahead by one — their only lead — before the Bruins went on a 22-5 run to take a 28-10 lead. Shipp scored eight points, hitting two 3-pointers, and Collison added four.
“I looked at Baynes, he was almost hyperventilating, he played so hard,” Bennett said.
Washington State led all the way in beating Oregon 62-40 in a first-round game Wednesday night, while the well-rested Bruins had been practicing since beating the Ducks in their regular-season finale last Saturday.
The Bruins and Cougars split their regular season meetings, with the two games decided by a total of three points. This one was a blowout until the closing minutes.
Southern Cal 79, Cal 75
Taj Gibson had 21 points and 16 rebounds, Daniel Hackett made four free throws in the last 3.8 seconds, and Southern California never trailed.
Freshman DeMar DeRozan added 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots and Hackett had 15 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the sixth-seeded Trojans (19-12), who earned a berth in Friday night’s semifinals and greatly enhanced their NCAA tournament chances.
Jerome Randle led third-seeded California (22-10) with 18 points. Patrick Christopher added 15 points, freshman Jorge Gutierrez scored a career-high 14 before fouling out with 30.5 seconds left, and Theo Robertson added 13 for the Bears, who barely lost despite being outrebounded 53-27.
Entering the tournament, the sixth seed had a 2-11 record in first-round action and had lost six straight, but the Trojans held on after leading by as many as 18 points. USC is 6-6 in games decided by five points or less.
No. 13 Washington 85, Stanford 73
Washington picked a great time to continue its second-longest winning streak of the season.
Jon Brockman scored 20 points, Isaiah Thomas sparked a decisive second-half spurt with nine points and the 13th-ranked Huskies defeated Stanford.
Washington (25-7), winners of six in a row, will play 23rd-ranked Arizona State (23-8) in Friday’s semifinals at Staples Center. The Huskies swept the regular season series, winning the second game by three points in overtime.
“Another tough opponent,” Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Arizona State just plays us to the wire. We’re going to have to do a great job of turning the page. This group has been fantastic in keeping the focus.”
Washington’s focus is on earning a high seed in the NCAA tournament, where it hasn’t played since 2006 when its streak of three consecutive appearances ended.
The Huskies won the Pac-10 regular season title outright for the first time since 1953, and are going for their first league tournament championship since 2005.
Anthony Goods scored 26 points after getting 23 in a win against Oregon State on Wednesday night for the Cardinal, who were sent packing a year after losing to UCLA in the title game.
“It’s just frustrating to fall short,” he said.
Washington, the tournament’s top seed for the first time, has won nine of its last 10. The Huskies completed a three-game sweep of the Cardinal (18-13) by winning the teams’ first meeting in the tournament since 2005.
Landry Fields had 16 points and a career-high 15 rebounds and freshman Jeremy Green added 13 points for Stanford, which fell to 11-11 all-time in the tournament. Those two, along with Goods, combined for 55 of Stanford’s points, while starter Lawrence Hill finished with four points on 2-of-14 shooting.
“We had some great looks that didn’t go down. Some of our better shooters couldn’t find it,” said first-year Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, who’ll wait to see if his team will play on in the NIT.
The Cardinal kept it close throughout the first half, when the game was tied eight times.
Tied at 27-all, the Huskies outscored the Cardinal 11-8 to end the half ahead 38-35. Elston Turner hit three consecutive 3-pointers and Justin Holiday dunked in the spurt. The Cardinal got two 3-pointers, including a buzzer-beater by Kenny Brown, who finished with 11.
“Those were huge,” Romar said about Turner’s 3-pointers. “He gave us a little breathing room.”
Thomas, who missed all six of his shots in the first half, suddenly found his shooting touch.
The freshman ran off seven points in a row and hit another basket, and Brockman added five points, during Washington’s 16-11 run that opened the second half and put the Huskies ahead for good, 54-46.
“We came out in the second half and did a better job,” Thomas said.
Thomas finished with 14 points and a career-high nine rebounds. The 5-foot-8 guard scooped up Stanford’s long rebounds.
“They popped out to me,” he said. “It’s not like I was Jon.”
The Cardinal cut their deficit to five points four times down the stretch, twice on baskets by Goods and twice by Green. But Washington always answered, and scored 12 in a row to pull away.
Stanford was just 8-of-28 from long-range.
“It just came down to shot selection,” Goods said. “We resorted to the 3 a little too early and it took its toll on us.”