When it comes to the Territorial Cup in the state of Arizona it gets pretty intense with players, coaches, and fans. There have been confrontations on the court between players, coaches being ejected, upsets, and all sorts of colorful adjectives being hurled at each team. This is an intense rivalry game and it doesn’t matter the sport. People mention a hatred toward their rival and it’s not something that they joke about. It is a hatred for that other school. Wednesday night in Tucson, Arizona was another edition of this rivalry on the basketball court.
Arizona came into this game needing to continue their winning ways because their thought is another conference title and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Qualifying for the big dance is not going to be an issue for the Arizona Wildcats, but questions are floating out there about how talented this Arizona team actually is. The Wildcats don’t exactly have that show-stopping talent that they have had in recent years, but for a game like the one against their rival Arizona State they had more than enough talent to compete.
Arizona State is just a team trying to hang on until the end of the season. For a good portion of the season the Sun Devils they have been playing with only eight scholarship players. Injuries have also taken a toll on Bobby Hurley’s team. Anybody that knows anything about basketball knows that if your team is injured and you have only eight guys that can play winning is going to be a challenge.
It was a challenge on Wednesday night for the Sun Devils.
Not only did the Wildcats have a talent edge, they had a size advantage over the Sun Devils. They made their inside presence felt most of the night by blocking shot after shot out of the air. Midway through the second half the Wildcats already had seven blocks, with Kaleb Tarczewski owning three of those.
Kaleb Tarczewski. If you follow Pac-12 basketball you know who this player is. If you follow college basketball in general you should know who he is. The Sun Devils knew who he was and couldn’t do anything to stop him. He was ready to play and so was the rest of the Wildcat team. Tarczewski finished the game with 6 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 blocks. He made life miserable for the Sun Devil offense all evening.
The Sun Devils were not ready to play and it showed. When you shoot worse from two-point range than three-point range things will not work out for your team. That is exactly what happened to the Devils on Wednesday night. The Sun Devils shot 32% from two point range and 34% from three point range. This showed in the first half with the Sun Devils down by 14 points at half 38-24 which when you consider everything that the Wildcats did it was a gift only being down 14.
The second half was Wildcat domination in every facet of the game. In fact, with about 15 minutes left in the game Sun Devil Head Coach Bobby Hurley who is usually up and barking at the referees retired to his seat on the Arizona State bench and didn’t say a word.
Hurley was looking at what he wants for his own program in Tempe. Hurley wants players to flock to Arizona State to play basketball and provide the level of excitement the players at Arizona give their fans. What does Hurley need to do to make the basketball Territorial Cup more of a rivalry? Simple. To quote Al Davis, “Just win baby.” The winning is going to take some time because ASU does not have the history that history that Arizona has when it comes to basketball. Big time recruits want to play where they are going to win and ASU doesn’t provide that yet. Sun Devil fans hope Bobby Hurley can bring that type of swag to their program.
By the time this edition of the Territorial Cup was over the Wildcats showed everybody in the Pac-12 that they are not going anywhere and will do whatever they needed to do to secure another conference title. Arizona shot 57% from the field, 72% from the free throw line, dominated on the boards 52-27, and dominated on the scoreboard 99-61. If the Wildcats turn in this type of performance the remainder of the season then things will turn out well for them. Bear Down Arizona!