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Sun Devil persistence pays dividends in overtime win

January 09, 2008

By Matt Storey, ASU Media Relations

The ASU men's basketball team defeated Arizona 64-59 in an overtime thriller Wednesday night in front of a sellout crowd of 13,947 at Wells Fargo Arena.

"It was especially good to have such a great atmosphere here tonight," head coach Herb Sendek said. "I just want to thank all the Sun Devils who came out and supported us tonight. It most certainly provided us with a great atmosphere."

For the Sun Devils, it is their ninth straight win and improves them to 13-2 on the season. It also gives them a 3-0 start in the Pac-10 for just the third time in school history.

Freshman guard James Harden scored a career-high 26 points, 22 coming in the second half and overtime, and had a team-high nine rebounds to help the Sun Devils end a 12-game losing streak to the Wildcats.

"My teammates did a great job getting me the ball, setting screens, doing everything to get me open shots," Harden said. "So, all the thanks should go to them for getting me good shots."

Junior forward Jeff Pendergraph was the only other Sun Devil to score in double figures, as he had 14 points in the victory.

"It feels really good," Pendergraph said of his first win over Arizona in five games at ASU. "They're a really good team. We knew that this was going to be a war and this was going to come down to the wire. We toughed it out and got it."

The Wildcats were led by forward Jordan Hill, who had 18 points and 14 rebounds. Forward Chase Budinger had 14 points but went 4-13 from the field, including 2-10 from outside the arc.

Neither team shot the ball well, with ASU shooting 39.6 percent from the field and Arizona 38.9 percent. The Wildcats were 6-21 and the Sun Devils were 4-16 from 3-point range.

"I thought both teams played really hard," Sendek said. "It wasn't necessarily artistic. Probably both teams missed some shots that they normally make, but there was a lot of heart out there tonight by both teams."

After a Ty Abbott blocked shot and fast-break dunk gave ASU a 4-2 lead, the Wildcats went on a 9-0 run and held the Sun Devils scoreless for more than seven minutes.

Arizona led by as many as 12 in the first half, but the Sun Devils cut the lead to seven by the break, helped by a late 3-pointer by Christian Polk and a blocked shot by Eric Boateng on the Wildcats' last possession of the half.

Arizona held the lead for nearly the entire second half, but the margin was never greater than five points over the last 14 minutes of regulation.

The Wildcats led 55-50 with 1:53 to play, but an Abbott 3-pointer and a driving lay-up by Harden on ASU's next two possessions tied the game and eventually forced overtime.

Harden's free throw in overtime gave ASU a 56-55 lead, its first lead since 4-2. Harden would score ASU's first five points of overtime to give his team a 60-59 lead with less than a minute left.

After a defensive stop, Pendergraph put back an offensive rebound to give the Sun Devils a three-point lead with 12 seconds remaining.

Budinger then missed a 3-pointer, and Pendergraph made two free throws to seal the victory.