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No. 7 Arizona Outlasts ASU, 71-54
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 01/19/2013
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Jan. 19, 2013

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Mark Lyons scored 24 points, Nick Johnson added 19 and No. 7 Arizona pulled away in the second half to beat rival Arizona State 71-54 on Saturday.

Arizona (16-1, 4-1 Pac-12) was solid at both ends and went on the decisive run after Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson picked up his fourth foul midway through the second half. Solomon Hill added 13 points for the Wildcats, who scored 18 points off turnovers and outscored the Sun Devils by 14 inside.

Arizona State (14-4, 3-2) never recovered after Arizona's run, thanks to 17 turnovers and a quiet game by second-leading scorer Carrick Felix, who had 5 points on 1-of-8 shooting.

Carson had 22 points and four assists, and Evan Gordon added 14 points for the Sun Devils.

The basketball version of the Territorial Cup featured one of the most anticipated matchups in the rivalry's recent history.

Arizona opened the season loaded with hype and has lived up to it, climbing to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 after winning its first 14 games. The Wildcats have one of the Pac-12's best backcourts in Lyons and Johnson, and a good mix of veterans and talented newcomers in the front court.

Arizona State has had a bit of a resurgence under coach Herb Sendek behind a faster tempo and aggressive man-to-man defense. Carson, the flash-bulb-quick point guard, has been a big part of it, but Felix has emerged as one of the conference's best two-way players and the Big Bachynski, 7-foot center Jordan, has anchored the center of a defense that blocks one out of every eight shots taken by opponents.

The Sun Devils have gotten their better of their rivals recently, too, winning seven of the previous 11 in the series, including an 87-80 win in last season's finale that all but knocked the Wildcats out of the NCAA tournament.

With the highest-ranked opponent to play at ASU's Wells Fargo Arena in five years, not to mention that it was the hated Wildcats, the quaint arena got a jolt of energy, with the Sun Devils' students trading chants with fans of the team from down south.

The guards dominated early.

The brash Carson recently called himself the best point guard in the Pac-12 on Twitter and didn't shrink under the spotlight in the biggest game of his young career, calmly running Arizona State's offense and driving hard to the basket. He had 12 points by halftime before picking up a third foul in the closing seconds.

Gordon, who broke out of a shooting slump with 17 points against Oregon on Sunday, scored seven quick points and had 10 by halftime.

Lyons, who could make a case for himself as the conference's top point guard, played his usual confident game, driving hard to the rim and stroking in jumpers. He and Johnson combined for 18 of Arizona's 29 first-half points.

But after all the early offensive fireworks, the game stalled quickly.

Arizona State struggled against Arizona's pressure, hitting two field goals after the 11:12 mark before Gordon picked Lyons' pocket in the backcourt for a steal and a layup just before the buzzer to cut Arizona's lead to three.

The Sun Devils were fortunate to be that close after hitting 9 of 23 shots - 1 for 7 from beyond the arc - and getting nothing from Felix, who missed both of his shots and was scoreless at halftime.

The Wildcats used a little spurt to go up nine points early in the second half, but the Sun Devils fought back, pulling within 46-44 on a layup by Carson after a nice bounce pass from Gordon on a backdoor cut.

But on Arizona State's next possession, Felix dropped a pass from Carson that would have been a layup. Carson then picked up his fourth foul at the other end and headed to the bench with 9:50 left.

Arizona followed with a 9-0 run, going up 55-44 on a layup by Johnson that forced Sendek to call a timeout.

Sendek gambled by bringing Carson back in a few minutes later, but the damage had been done and the Sun Devils never climbed back out of the hole.

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