We watched the Cats break open a tight game against the formidable UCLA Bruins last night on ESPN-2, coming away with an 85-74 win in what seemed to be a much more rowdy-than-usual crowd at McKale Center.
Derrick Williams, who has come into his own as one of college basketball's very best, scored 22 points, many in spectacular fashion, with dunks that combined acrobatic moves and sheer strength. He is fun to watch, and is usually the best player on the court at any given time.
The win moved Arizona into sole possession of second-place in the Pacific-10 Conference, one game behind the Washington Huskies, as the season enters its second-half.
Things weren't nearly as cheery over in Tempe, where ASU battled hard for 40 minutes before coming up one basket short against the USC Trojans, 63-61.
That one wasn't on TV, so we listened to the excellent Tim Healey call the wild finish in which the Devils' had two chances in the last few seconds to send the game into overtime or win it outright with a three-pointer.
Ty Abbott, a senior out of Desert Vista High School, took both shots from three-point land, the final one a desperation heave at the buzzer, but couldn't connect.
It was ASU's sixth conference loss in a row, and pushed them deeper into last place with a 1-7 mark.
Though things undoubtedly are gloomy at Wells Fargo Arena, at least with the men's b-ball program, we suspect that Herb Sendek's team will win at least a few of these close games before this season ends
The team played Washington very tough up in Seattle, and was within a few points of Arizona down in Tucson a few weeks ago until the end. There doesn't appear to be a huge difference in this year's Pac-10 between the top tier teams and the lesser-lights.
ASU plays UCLA tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 at Wells Fargo Arena, in a game to be televised on Channel 34 (FSAZ) and aired on KTAR-620.
Later in the afternoon, at 5:30, the Wildcats face USC in what should be a rough-and-tumble game in the 60s or low 70s--the final score, not the temperature outside (though, come to think of it...)
That one also will be on Channel 34, but airs on KFNX-1100, not on KTAR.