Rivals collide in desert duel

Tucson, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - The eighth-ranked Arizona Wildcats will begin Pac-12 play on Sunday evening, as they take on instate rival Arizona State at the McKale Center.

Sean Miller's Wildcats are probably eager to get back on the floor. After opening the season with 12 straight victories, the Wildcats suffered their first loss of the campaign, falling at UNLV back on Dec. 23, 71-67. Arizona has been idle since. The Wildcats should have plenty off confidence however, as the team has won 12 straight Pac-12 home matchups.

Herb Sendek's Sun Devils are a modest 8-5 on the season, but the team does enter league play with a little bit of momentum. Arizona State has won two straight games, closing out the 2014 calendar year by topping Detroit (93-54) and Harvard (56-46).

This marks the 227th all-time meeting in this longstanding rivalry. Arizona leads by a 145-81 count and has an 84-49 edge in games played in Tucson. Arizona State however, won the last meeting, a 69-66 on Valentine's Day last year.

After erupting offensively against Detroit, the Sun Devils employed a much more subdued approach against Harvard. ASU managed to score just 56 points against the Crimson, but it was more than enough, as the Sun Devils held Harvard to a mere .364 shooting performance, while owning a huge advantage on the boards (40-23). Arizona State dominated the Crimson in the paint, outscoring them down low, 34-14. Four Sun Devils notched double figures in the win, led by Shaquielle McKissic and Gerry Blakes, who finished with 13 points each. Roosevelt Scott and Savon Goodman tacked on 10 points apiece, while Goodman grabbed a team-best eight boards.

The Sun Devils have been efficient this season, shooting .467 from the floor en route to 73.5 ppg. Goodman, a former UNLV forward, has really added a new dimension to ASU's attack of late. Since becoming eligible, Goodman has played in just four games this season and currently leads the team in scoring (15.8 ppg) and rebounding (8.0 rpg). Blakes (12.2 ppg), McKissic (10.7 ppg) and Eric Jacobsen (10.3 ppg) give the team offensive balance.

The Wildcats had a sub-par offensive performance against UNLV and as a result, fell to the Rebels at the Thomas & Mack Center just before Christmas. Arizona shot just .426 from the floor overall, but still had its chances late, pulling to within a single point (68-67) with just over two minutes remaining, before falling by four in Las Vegas. All five starters ended up in double figures for Arizona, but the bench managed just six points combined in the setback. T.J. McConnell led the way in defeat with 14 points. Stanley Johnson and Brandon Ashley added 13 points apiece, while Gabe York and Kaleb Tarczewski checked in with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Arizona has been much more effective on the offensive end over the course of the season and comes into league play averaging 76.3 ppg on an impressive .501 shooting. Johnson has made an immediate impact, as the talented freshman forward tops the team in both scoring (14.5 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg). Ashley (11.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (11.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Tarczewski (8.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg) add to a deep frontcourt. York (9.9 ppg) and McConnell (7.6 ppg, 6.3 apg) lead the way in the backcourt.