TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Arizona's chances for an at-large NCAA tournament berth were hanging on the rim before the Wildcats faced rival Arizona State on Sunday. The Sun Devils' 87-80 upset could well have doomed that possibility once and for all.
Danish freshman Jonathan Gilling scored a career-high 21 points and shot 5 of 6 from 3-point range, and Arizona State overwhelmed Arizona's usually stout defense with a 49-point second half.
Carrick Felix scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half for the Sun Devils (10-20, 6-12 Pac-12), who finished the game with six free throws in the final 30.9 seconds, four of them by Trent Lockett, who also scored 21. Jordan Bachynski had 11 points and blocked six shots for Arizona State.
Kyle Fogg had 23 points for the Wildcats (21-10, 12-6) but was 7 of 17 shooting. Arizona's Brendon Lavender matched his career best with 18 points on 6 of 8 3-point shooting. Solomon Hill scored 16 points and Jesse Perry 15 for Arizona.
The final seven-point margin was the biggest lead for either team.
The Wildcats probably have to win the Pac-12 tournament to make the NCAA field.
``We're not good enough to be an NCAA tournament team right now,' Wildcats coach Sean Miller said. ``That's not to say that we've waved the white or we're not going to L.A. to try to win the tournament. We have a bye for a reason.'
But to make the NCAA field, Miller said, ``you have to be good.'
``There's a lot of teams fighting for the same thing as us,' he said, ``and what they do is they go on the road in a game like today and they leave with the win. You have to earn your way into the tournament. There are no politics.'
Hill called it the toughest loss of the season.
``It really just popped the bubble,' he said.
The Sun Devils did so many things well that they had done poorly all season.
They had shot 45 percent from the field and 67 percent from the free-throw line entering the game, then made 56 percent from the floor on Sunday, 60 percent (15 of 25) in outscoring the Wildcats 49-36 in the second half. Arizona State made 22 of 24 free throws, with Lockett going 8 for 8 and Felix 8 for 9.
``That was huge,' Lockett said. ``Free throws have plagued us throughout the season, the way we shoot the ball. But today everybody got to the line, with confidence knocked them down, and that probably won the game for us.'
Felix said the victory ``gives us a lot of momentum going into next week.'
``It also shows how much the guys are improving,' he said, ``like JB (Bachynski) and Jon, from the start of the season.'
Gilling banked in a 3-pointer on his first attempt.
``I meant to do it,' he joked.
But the rest of his baskets went in smoothly.
``I was just wide open,' he said, ``and, well, sometimes you knock them down, right?'
The game had no bearing on the matchups in the Pac-12 tournament. Arizona State plays Stanford in the first round on Wednesday. Arizona has a first-round bye as the No. 4 seed and will play the winner of the UCLA-USC game in Thursday's second round.
Arizona State led 78-74 when Lockett tipped in his miss with 2:05 to play. But Chris Colvin fouled Fogg on a 3-point attempt, and the Arizona senior made all three free throws to cut the lead to 78-77 with 1:44 to play.
Gilling, who banked in a 3-pointer on his first shot of the afternoon, sank his final 3 with 57 seconds left to give the Sun Devils an 81-77 advantage. Fogg drove the lane for a three-point play to make it 81-80 with 51 seconds to go, but the Wildcats couldn't score again.
Lockett made two free throws with 31 seconds to play and two more with 20 seconds left to boost the lead to 85-80. Felix's two from the line with six seconds left finished off the scoring.
``We could pass around superlatives to everybody who contributed and played this afternoon,' Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said.
Arizona's 8-2 spurt to end the first half put the Wildcats up 44-38 at the break, their biggest lead of the game.
Arizona State opened the second half with a 7-0 run, the last five points by Felix, to regain the lead 45-44. Fogg followed with a 3-pointer, and it was back and forth from there.
Wildcats freshmen Turner and Nick Johnson were a combined 2 of 11 shooting with seven turnovers.
Arizona State, plagued by turnovers all season, committed only 10 to Arizona's 14, just the second time this season that the Sun Devils had fewer turnovers than their opponent.
``You could make the argument through 17 (conference) games we've been the Pac-12's best defensive team statistically,' Miller said, ``and today, Arizona State got 87 on us.'
The Associated Press News Service
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