The California Golden Bears defeated the Arizona St. Sun Devils 65-61 on Saturday afternoon in Tempe, in a contest that went back and forth and nearly went ASU's way.
The Sun Devils overcame a horrendous start to this game and made it an interesting and exciting contest. Point guard Marcus Jackson, normally a player who rarely sees the court, was given a big role in a game where Jamelle McMillan was sidelined with a pulled groin. Jackson contributed with hustle plays and brought some consistency to the ball handling.
Ty Abbott played at a very high level, scoring 18 points on 5-for-11 shooting, including making 4 of 8 three point attempts. He also grabbed six rebounds, playing with purpose and determination. After an awful team performance on Thursday against Stanford, Abbott carried his team on Saturday afternoon.
Unfortunately, his efforts weren't quite enough, as the California Golden Bears were able to survive a Sun Devils comeback as the game reached a conclusion. Jorge Gutierrez played an excellent game for Cal, scoring 21 points and being a nuisance on both ends of the floor.
A couple of things stuck out to me as the game drew to a close. The referees were a little inconsistent, calling touchy fouls on ASU and letting California get away with some questionable things. Cal was whistled much more frequently in the first half, but when it counted it seemed uneven.
The crowd was also a bigger factor than anyone could have anticipated, with a fairly respectable crowd showing up to support ASU. The student section was completely barren due to winter break, but the rest of the arena was fairly well populated. During the final possessions, the crowd sprang to life and gave the Sun Devils the support it needed to come up with a big defensive stand.
On their final chance of the game, ASU missed four consecutive 3-point attempts that would have tied the contest. It wasn't for a lack of effort, but the ball just wouldn't drop into the basket despite numerous rebounds. It was symbolic of the effort that the Sun Devils have put forth this season - even when they are on their game, it just hasn't been quite enough.
ASU only made 6 of their 21 three-point attempts, earning a 28% average on the game. Markhuri Sanders-Frison finished the game with a double-double.
With the loss, ASU drops to 8-7 on the season and a miserable 1-3 in Pac-10 play. Being swept at home is not a good way to get back on track, and coach Sendek has a lot of work to do in practice before Tulsa comes to Wells Fargo Arena on Wednesday, January 12.