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February 22, 2009 at 9:54 PM

ASU sets up showdown with Huskies Thursday

What a great game in the Arizona desert tonight as the Sun Devils beat the Wildcats 70-68 in Tempe (and raise your hand if you had Rihards Kuksiks in the Key Player of the Game pool. Didn’t think so).
What it means for Washington is a showdown for control of the Pac-10 conference race — if not maybe the title itself — on Thursday night when ASU comes to Seattle. Tipoff is 8 p.m. and reports a limited number of tickets for the game will go on sale Monday at 8:30 a.m.
A look at the Pac-10 standings reveals the import of Thursday night’s game. Here are the updated standings after tonight’s game:
Washington 11-4
Arizona State 10-4
UCLA 9-5
Cal 9-5
Arizona 8-6
USC 7-7
Oregon State 7-8
WSU 6-9
Stanford 4-10
Oregon 1-14
Simply put, the ASU-UW winner will be in the driver’s seat, though UW still has a schedule edge overall with only three games left, all at home. Besides the UW tilt, ASU still has a road game at WSU as well as home games with Stanford and Cal the following week.
The Huskies beat Arizona State 84-71 in Tempe earlier this season, a game that at the team seemed to mark ASU as something of a disappointment.
But since then ASU has won five in a row. The Sun Devils have also played some of their best games on the road, going 5-2 and winning at Pauley Pavilion and the McKale Center, indicating they won’t be intimidated by Hec Ed Thursday.
ASU will also have the memory of winning in Seattle last year, 77-63.
What it won’t have is a 2-3 zone defense to shoot open threes against all night long, as was the case tonight as the Wildcats stayed in it even when ASU blistered it for 10 three-pointers in the first half. ASU predictably cooled in the second half. Still, ASU finished an amazing 13-30 on three-pointers tonight with the aforementioned Kuksiks hitting 5-10 (and worth nothing that Kuksiks had one of the breakout games of his career last season as a freshman in SEattle when he scored 15).
Hitting that many threes is not something you would figure ASU would be able to do against UW Thursday with the Huskies a man-to-man team and generally pretty good defensively on the perimeter — heading into Saturday, UW was second in defensive three-point field goal percentage at 33 percent behind only ASU. UW held the Sun Devils to 6-23 shooting on threes in the game in Tempe on Jan. 31
Anyway, it sets up a heck of a fun week for the Huskies as they play what is one of the more important regular-season games in recent school history.
Here are a few other links from around the conference:
— LA big man Renardo Sidney did indeed announce he will go to USC tonight, one of the only pieces of good news for the Trojans in weeks. Here’s more on Sidney from Scott Wolf’s Inside USC blog as well as some more notes further down on the chaotic post-game scene for the Trojans following the loss to UW Saturday.
— The Oregonian has more on USC and some other Pac-10 notes.
All for now.

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