As the Arizona State Sun Devils prepare to host rival Arizona in a prime-time game, there’s been plenty of chatter in the locker room about how much pressure the team must be under.
But that pressure could be as much as 5-2.
On Saturday, the Sun Devils lost 5-3 to the Wildcats, who finished the game with 10 unanswered points.
The Wildcats led by 17 at halftime, but Arizona’s defense got a break late in the second half.
After a 3-pointer by quarterback Jake Browning, Arizona’s leading scorer was ruled out of the game after a sprained left knee.
“We have to be realistic about our job,” said senior guard Alex Okafor.
“We know that this is a big-time football game and we have to do our best to win.
We just have to continue to execute our game plan and play like it.”
The Sun Devils are coming off an 11-3 loss to No. 13 Washington State in the Pac-12 championship game and are coming into Saturday’s contest looking to end the Wildcats’ eight-game winning streak.
Arizona was ranked No. 7 in the AP poll and ranked No of 4 teams entering Saturday’s game.
“I think Arizona State has done a great job of staying on top of things in the last month,” Arizona coach Todd Graham said.
“Our team just really has to focus on playing with more intensity and not giving up a lot of easy buckets.
We’ve got to find a way to win in the third quarter.”
The Wildcats’ last game against Arizona came in Week 3 of the 2016 season.
Arizona led 19-10 at halftime and took the lead for good on a 3 from quarterback Austin Kelly, but a pair of Wildcats missed free throws to cut the lead to 20-17.
Arizona trailed by 10 points late in regulation before scoring the next seven points.
After halftime, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said he had no idea how his team’s last loss would affect the rest of the season.
“The last couple weeks I don’t think there’s any question that we’re trying to figure it out,” Rodriguez said.
“We’re going to play better, we’re going a different direction and we’re not going to go back to that type of game.
But the way we played this game, we weren’t giving up easy buckets, we were playing with a lot more energy.
We weren’t playing our game like we normally do.”
It’s a new feeling, but we’re ready to go.