Arizona 56

(19-13, 9-9 Pac-12)

(23) Arizona State 68

(23-8, 11-7 Pac-12)

    3:00 PM ET, March 12, 2009

    Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

    1 2 T
    ARIZ 34 2256
    #23ASU 32 3668

    Top Performers

    Arizona: J. Hill 20 Pts, 13 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl

    Arizona St: J. Harden 27 Pts, 8 Reb, 4 Ast, 2 Stl

    Arizona-Arizona St. Preview

    TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Arizona forward Jordan Hill sent a text message to Arizona State's Jeff Pendergraph this week.

    "He said, 'There's about to be another showdown," Pendergraph said.

    Hill was referring to Thursday's Pac-10 tournament opener between Arizona and No. 23 Arizona State in Los Angeles -- and another clash between two of the Pac-10's top big men.

    Barring an unexpected meeting in the NCAA tournament, this will be the final duel between Pendergraph, a 6-foot-9 senior, and Hill, a 6-foot-10 junior. Both players were selected to the All-Pac-10 first team on Monday.

    "Every time we play against each other, it's kind of like an epic battle," Pendergraph said before practice on Tuesday.

    Hill, speaking at McKale Center in Tucson, said he's looking forward to one more meeting with Pendergraph.

    "I appreciate every battle I've had with him," Hill said.

    This matchup will have a little more at stake. Hill's Wildcats (19-12, 9-9 Pac-10) may need a victory to lock up an NCAA tournament berth. By contrast, Pendergraph's Sun Devils (22-8, 11-7) are playing to improve their seed in the NCAAs.

    It's quite a role reversal given the history of the two programs. Since 1995, Arizona has won an NCAA title and ASU has won an NCAA tourney game. Arizona has appeared in 24 straight NCAA tournaments -- the nation's longest active streak and second all time to North Carolina's run of 27 in a row from 1975-2001.

    Asked if the Sun Devils could have a hand in ending Arizona's glorious postseason run, Pendergraph said it would be weird.

    "I was thinking about that this morning. They've been there so many times in a row, and for it to fall down between us and them to see if they get to go or not -- that seems kind of funny," he said. "That's some fate stuff."

    Arizona may have more tradition, but the Sun Devils have the whip hand in a suddenly hot rivalry. They've beaten Arizona four straight times, their longest streak since a nine-game run from 1979-83.

    Both of this season's games were decided in the final minutes -- and both times the Sun Devils hit big 3-pointers to win.

    On Jan. 21 in McKale Center, the Sun Devils beat the Wildcats 53-47 after point guard Derek Glasser hit a pair of big 3-pointers in the final minutes.

    The Sun Devils completed the regular-season sweep with a 70-68 victory on Feb. 22 at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. ASU blew a 17-point lead but survived on a pair of late 3-pointers from Rihards Kuksiks.

    The Sun Devils have to overcome a little history this week in Staples Center.

    Arizona State is 0-6 since the Pac-10 restored its postseason tournament. The Sun Devils' last Pac-10 tourney victory came against Oregon State and Gary Payton in Wells Fargo Arena on March 9, 1990 -- seven months after star sophomore James Harden was born.

    The Sun Devils are likely to be without guard Jamelle McMillan, who has a groin injury. McMillan is resting in the hopes that he'll be ready for the NCAAs.

    "It's definitely going to be a tougher game without him because he brings so much to the defensive end also," ASU point guard Derek Glasser said.

    Meanwhile, Harden was expected to return to practice on Tuesday after sitting out Monday with a strained Achilles' tendon.

    Hill has been playing despite suffering a severe ankle sprain at Washington on Feb. 28. He expects to be full speed on Thursday -- and Pendergraph expects nothing less.

    Hill and Pendergraph have developed a kinship in the past year or so, and they hope to spend some time together in Los Angeles before Thursday's game.

    "It's gone from the whole rivalry thing, kind of the enemy thing, to working out with each other over the summer," Pendergraph said.

    In their two games this season, Pendergraph is averaging 13.5 points and 13 rebounds, while Hill is averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds. Hill has four blocked shots and Pendergraph has three.

    Perhaps most notably, neither player has fouled out against the other. Foul trouble was a problem for both early in their careers.

    "My thing is try to stay a step ahead because he's a smart guy," Pendergraph said. "If I fall asleep for one second, I end up getting dunked on. I try not to let that happen."

    Pendergraph shoots 66.5 percent from the floor, the best in the nation. Hill said the hardest part about facing Pendergraph is "matching his intensity.

    "He gets wild on the court," Hill said. "He just wants to win. But off the court, he's a real nice guy."


    School Info

    Conference Pac-12 Pac-12
    Nickname Wildcats Sun Devils
    Type Public Public

    2008-09 Season

    Jan 21, 2009 ASU 53, @ARIZ 47Recap
    Feb 22, 2009 @ASU 70, ARIZ 68Recap
    » Mar 12, 2009 @ASU 68, ARIZ 56Recap