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Bitter rivals square off, as Wildcats visit Sun Devils

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Updated: 2/14 10:47 am

Tempe, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - Familiar foes will clash on Friday night, as the second-ranked Arizona Wildcats pay a visit to the rival Arizona State Sun Devils for a Pac-12 Conference clash at Wells Fargo Arena.

Arizona used a two-game homestand to recover from its first loss of the season, a 60-58 setback at California. The Wildcats earned victories over Oregon (67-65) and Oregon State (76-54) in the two games since, improving to 23-1 overall and a conference best 10-1 in league play. They are venturing out for a three-game road trip, which continues against Utah on Wednesday.

Arizona State has won five of its last six contests, since being routed, 91-68, at the McKale Center by the Wildcats on Jan. 1. The Sun Devils are still alive in the Pac-12 title chase, at 7-4 in conference play, which has them tied with Colorado, who they face next for third place in the league standings. ASU is 18-6 on the season.

Nick Johnson scored 17 points and Aaron Gordon added 16 to carry Arizona to victory over the Sun Devils earlier this season. The Wildcats also forced 18 turnovers as they won their third straight against Arizona State. They lead the all-time series, 145-80.

Arizona was back to its dominant form in blasting Oregon State last Sunday. The Wildcats shot 50 percent from the floor, limited the Beavers to 39.1 percent, and held a 39-24 advantage on the glass. Gordon netted 17 points to pace four players in double figures.

There are not many teams better than the Wildcats on defense. Arizona is among the top-10 in the country in scoring defense (57 ppg), assists allowed (9.3 apg) and opponent field goal percentage (.378). The Wildcats also make sure to crash the boards, leading the Pac-12 in rebounds (38.8 rpg). Johnson (15.9 ppg) is the team's go-to scorer, especially in crunch time, where he has thrived. Johnson had 10 points against Oregon State. Gordon (11.8 ppg, 8 rpg) has turned in a fine freshman season in support, and Rondae Hillis-Jefferson (8.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg) has fit in well with an expanded role since Brandon Ashley (11.2 ppg) was lost to right knee surgery.

Arizona State did not have such an easy time last time out, but it was able to hold on for a 74-72 victory over Oregon. The Sun Devils shot 45.7 percent from the floor and outscored the Ducks, 29-14, from the free-throw line, while holding them to 36.6 percent shooting from the field.

The win over Oregon came despite an off night from Jahii Carson. On the season, Carson (19 ppg, 4.7 apg) is in the top-10 in the conference in both scoring and assists, but he had only 11 points on 2-of-10 shooting against the Ducks. He made up for it by producing on the boards (team-high 12 rebounds) to go with six assists. Flanking Carson in the backcourt is Jermaine Marshall (15.6 ppg), who is more of a pure scorer, providing little on the glass or in distribution. Meanwhile, Jordan Bachynski (12.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 4.5 bpg) is one the most intimidating frontcourt players around, leading the nation in blocks.

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