GAME NOTES: Two teams jostling for position in the crowded Pac-12 Conference standings square off on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Arena, as the Arizona State Sun Devils play host to the California Golden Bears.
Arizona State put an end to a brief two-game slide on Wednesday with a 76-64 win over Stanford. The victory was the 20th of the season for the Sun Devils, marking the second straight year they have reached that milestone. They are also locked in a four-way tie with Colorado, Stanford and California for third place in the league standings (9-6). They will travel to face Oregon next.
California was run off the floor in an 87-59 rout by third-ranked Arizona on Wednesday. The loss was the second in the last three games for the Golden Bears, who are a solid 18-10 overall and still in the mix for one of the top seeds in the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament. They host their last two games of the regular season against Utah and Colorado.
Jahii Carson finished with 29 points and seven assists as Arizona State pulled away in overtime to defeat California, 89-78, when these teams met on Jan. 20 at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley. The Sun Devils have won the last two meetings to tie the all-time series at 37-37.
On Wednesday, Cal just didn't have the magic it had when it upset then top- ranked Arizona earlier in the season. The Golden Bears allowed the Wildcats to shoot 50.8 percent from the floor, while coming out on the short end of a 42-25 rebounding margin. Justin Cobbs labored his way to 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting as the only player to reach double figures for the losing side.
Although it didn't look it against Arizona, the Golden Bears benefit from one of the most balanced starting lineups in the conference. Cobbs (15.8 ppg, 6 apg) leads the way for the group in the backcourt as he tops the squad in both scoring and assists, ranking second in the Pac-12 in the latter category. Fellow guard Tyrone Wallace (11.6 ppg) lends support, while up front, there is Richard Solomon (11.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg), who still has a shot at becoming the first player since Leon Powe in 2006 to average a double-double for the season for the Golden Bears. David Kravish (11.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg) is also a strong performer on the interior.
Carson was the leader once again for Arizona State in its win over Stanford. He finished with a game-high 26 points on an efficient 8-of-11 shooting performance. The Sun Devils knocked down 55.1 percent of their total shots, including 10-of-19 3-point tries.
With Carson leading the way, the Sun Devils have performed solidly on offense this season. They are netting a respectable 75.4 ppg and shooting 45.4 percent from the floor. Carson (18.7 ppg, 4.6 apg) is more than just the team's go-to scorer, although that is the role for which he is best suited. The 5-foot-9 guard is also a talented distributor. Jermaine Marshall (15.5 ppg) is more of a pure scorer, shooting 46.7 percent from the floor and 41 percent from 3- point range. On the interior, Jordan Bachynski (11.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 4.2 bpg) is an imposing force, especially on defense as he leads the nation in blocks.
There is a great deal of talent on both sides in this contest. In the end, the support of the home crowd, which has helped the Sun Devils amass a 15-1 record inside Wells Fargo Arena, should give them enough juice to come out on top.
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