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3 big takeaways from No. 17 Arizona's nail-biting win over No. 3 ASU

Posted at 10:59 PM, Dec 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-31 12:33:06-05

Entering Saturday evening, the No. 3 Arizona State Sun Devils were the last remaining undefeated team in college basketball.

But at the end of the night, the Devils were scratched from the ranks of the unbeaten by their archrivals in a nail-biter of a game.

The No. 17 Arizona Wildcats survived numerous ASU rallies in the second half and held on for an 84-78 win at McKale Center to improve to 11-3 (1-0 Pac-12) and drop the Devils to 12-1 (0-1) for the season. It was UA's eighth straight win overall and its eighth straight victory over ASU in Tucson.

Here are three big takeaways from the game.

1. Devils can't handle Cats' size

ASU is a much bigger team this season thanks to the additions of Romello White, De'Quon Lake and Mickey Mitchell. But the Wildcats still proved a bit too much for ASU near the basket on Saturday.

In particular, freshman freak Deandre Ayton, the possible No. 1 pick in next year's draft, did pretty much whatever he wanted throughout the game. He scored 23 points on 9 of 14 shooting and added 19 rebounds, and his tip-in with 11 seconds to play sealed Arizona's victory. Fellow 7-footer Dusan Ristic added 12 points and four rebounds for the Wildcats.

2. Tra Holder is a star

ASU's toughness and resilience were on display Saturday night, as the Devils rallied twice from double-digit deficits in the second half to trim UA's lead to a single possession. The catalyst for those rallies was senior guard Tra Holder, who scored a game-high 31 points, connected on 4 of 8 of his 3-point attempts and made 15 of 16 free throws.

After the game, UA coach Sean Miller singled Holder out for praise, calling him a "monster" that reminded him of former Suns star point guard Kevin Johnson.

3. What an atmosphere

McKale Center is always one of the loudest college basketball arenas in the country -- but on Saturday, the atmosphere in that gym was simply off the charts. Heck, fans even got loud for a cheerleader competition that UA won during a timeout.

After the game, Miller said his team needed that fan support, noting fans still made plenty of noise despite UA students yet to return to school from holiday break.