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Sun, March 24

UofA earns Pac-12 bye with win over ASU

John Miller/The Associated Press<br>
Arizona’s Nick Johnson works to control the ball during UofA’s matchup Saturday against ASU in Tucson. Johnson led the Wildcats with 17.

John Miller/The Associated Press<br> Arizona’s Nick Johnson works to control the ball during UofA’s matchup Saturday against ASU in Tucson. Johnson led the Wildcats with 17.

TUCSON - Nick Johnson scored 17 points, Solomon Hill added 12 in his final home game and No. 18 Arizona earned a first-round bye in next week's Pac-12 tournament with a 73-58 rout over rival Arizona State on Saturday.

A late-season slide left Arizona (24-6, 12-6 Pac-12) needing a win or some help to avoid playing Wednesday in the conference tournament. The Wildcats took care of it themselves, building a 15-point lead in the first half and answering a big second-half run by the Sun Devils with one of their own.

Kevin Parrom had 13 points in his final game at the McKale Center and Kaleb Tarczewski had one of his most aggressive games of the season, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds.

Arizona State (20-11, 9-9) pulled within five in the second half, but had trouble holding onto the ball, its 17 turnovers leading to 21 points for Arizona.

Carrick Felix scored 22 points after having a miserable game against Arizona in January and Jahii Carson added 15, but had six turnovers for the Sun Devils.

The 224th installment of this rivalry had the added specter of both teams in big need of a win.

After opening 12-0 in non-conference play, Arizona has played inconsistently during the Pac-12 season, particularly on the defensive end. Following a sweep by the two Southern California schools, the Wildcats needed to beat the Sun Devils to assure themselves of earning a coveted bye for the first round of next week's Pac-12 tournament.

Arizona State has taken a more precipitous fall since opening 11-2 in nonconference, losing five of its previous seven games, including three straight. The Sun Devils already had to play the opening round of the conference tournament and likely need a good run in Las Vegas to get into the NCAA tournament.

Arizona State managed to keep it close the first time around against Arizona on Jan. 19 in Tempe, but allowed the Wildcats to pull away down the final 10 minutes after Carson got into foul trouble. Felix struggled in that game, scoring five points on 1-of-8 shooting - seven of those 3s - with seven turnovers.

Both were good early against Arizona in the rematch, combining for 19 of Arizona State's 25 first-half points.

What hurt the Sun Devils in the opening half were turnovers. They had nine - four by Carson - leading to 12 points for Arizona. The Wildcats had an early 10-0 run and closed on a 7-0 one to lead 40-25 at halftime.

Tarczewski gave Arizona a big lift with six points and six rebounds, including two on one possession that set up Hill for a 3-pointer that put the Wildcats up 29-18.

An early turnover and fast-break dunk by Johnson brought a roar from the crowd, but those turned to boos after some calls went against the Wildcats and the Sun Devils scored six straight points.

Arizona State kept the momentum going, using a 15-4 run to pull within 48-43 on Jonathan Gilling's 3-pointer from the corner.

Arizona wouldn't let the Sun Devils any closer.

Johnson dropped in a 3-pointer to start a solo 7-0 run that put Arizona up 57-45 and Hill brought the crowd to its feet with a steal and a dunk for a three-point play on a 14-3 run that turned the game into a runaway.


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