TUCSON, AZ - From antagonistic pregame videos to spitting, bottle-throwing fans, former ASU point guard Derek Glasser was put through the ringer in his four appearances at UA's McKale Center – and while he and his teammates had plenty of success in that building, he said it's going to take a special performance from this year's Sun Devil squad to earn a win at the No. 1-ranked Wildcats on Thursday night.
"They're going to have to play almost a perfect game to beat them because UA is a different animal right now," said Glasser, a four-year Sun Devil starter from 2006-10. "With the confidence they're playing with and coming home (after a road trip), they're playing pretty good."
The Wildcats are off to their best start in school history (17-0) and are ranked No. 1 for the first time in over a decade. But Glasser proved that going to Tucson and silencing one of college basketball's loudest crowds can be done – even amid circumstances that are often reserved for football games between the two schools.
"They were throwing bottles at us, spitting at us – it was pretty gnarly," said Glasser, who recalled an incident from his freshman year in which former Sun Devil power forward Jeff Pendergraph–who has since changed his last name to Ayres and currently plays for the San Antonio Spurs-was on the receiving end of some saliva from a Wildcat fan.
"We were walking back to the locker room at McKale with like 15 minutes to go (before the game), and Jeff said, ‘Is there something on my head?' And there was like a loogie just dripping off the side of his head," Glasser said. "It was so disgusting."
ASU lost that game at McKale Center, but Glasser wouldn't lose there again, as the Sun Devils won three straight in Tucson from 2008-10. He said his senior year, in which the Devils avenged a loss to UA on their home court earlier in the season, was the sweetest of all those victories.
"UA had some pregame video they put up on the board during introductions, and I had never seen our team get so fired up after that," he said. "Basically, it was just an ASU-bashing video. There was something about that video that just set the majority of the guys on our team off."
The video, combined with the Wildcats' win at Wells Fargo Arena a month earlier, was all the motivation ASU needed, as guard Ty Abbott – who was the victim of a notoriously hard foul by Wildcat forward Kevin Parrom in their Tempe matchup – scored a career-high 28 points in a 73-69 win. "I'd never seen Ty like that after watching that video," Glasser said.
"We were a battle-tested team. We were all seniors and juniors, and we were just ready to go. We were very resilient as a team. We were able to take a lot of punches and respond, where a lot of other teams just folded in those types of situations," he said.
Glasser never faced a UA team as talented as this year's Wildcats, but he said the Devils can pull off the upset at McKale Center if star point guard Jahii Carson controls the tempo and takes smart shots, and center Jordan Bachynski gets involved on offense.
"They're going to have to get (UA center Kaleb) Tarczewski in foul trouble early, because behind Tarczewski, they don't have anybody that's big enough to play with Jordan," he said.
On defense, Glasser said ASU needs to focus on UA's talented young forwards such as Aaron Gordon and Brandon Ashley, and force the Wildcats to take outside shots from leading scorer Nick Johnson and others.
"If UA gets enough threes to beat them, they're going to have to live with it," he said. "But they can't let Nick get in the lane, they're going to have to stay home on (point guard T.J.) McConnell, and they have to stay home on the big guys so they don't get offensive rebound opportunities."
Glasser knows that stealing a win in Tucson on Thursday will be a tall task for his alma mater, but there's no Sun Devil in recent memory who knows what it takes to do so better than him.
"There's nothing like winning at the road in general, especially in conference play, and just to be able to go down to your rival's school and quiet the crowd," he said.
"Every game we played down there, it always went to the wire. It was a game where you really had to be on your A game to pull it out, because it's a tough place to play, especially for us. Those fans, they get pretty crazy down there."