Deandre Ayton, Arizona Hand Tra Holder, Arizona State 1st Loss of Season

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistDecember 31, 2017

Arizona forward Deandre Ayton (13) works toward the basket as Arizona State's Romello White defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
Ralph Freso/Associated Press

Arizona State became the third team to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten on Saturday with an 84-78 loss in its Pac-12 opener against Arizona.

Top-ranked Villanova and No. 10 TCU were defeated earlier in the day, putting the No. 3 Sun Devils on notice. Per ESPN Stats & Info, this is the first time in 69 years every Division I team has at least one loss before Jan. 1.

Arizona State did eventually get the deficit down to one with 7:53 remaining but missed two layups that would've given it the lead. The Wildcats immediately responded with a 12-3 run that would prove to be too much for the Sun Devils to overcome.

Deandre Ayton posted his 10th double-double of the season for Arizona. The freshman sensation scored 23 points and grabbed 19 rebounds in the win. Tra Holder scored 31 points for Arizona State.

Arizona State was able to match its highest ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 by starting 12-0. That streak included victories over No. 15 Xavier and No. 2 Kansas, proving that head coach Bobby Hurley has the program moving in the right direction.

As noted by Devils Digest, a win on Saturday likely would have resulted in a bump in the rankings for Arizona State:

Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com noted coming into the game what Arizona State's resume would look like with a victory over its in-state rival:

"Obviously, at home, Arizona is favored to win. But if ASU somehow pulls off the upset the Sun Devils would enter the 2018 calendar with four top-40 KenPom victories and true road wins at Kansas and Arizona, which would double as the nation's best resume and make any talk of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament reasonable."

While Arizona State was unable to finish the job, Arizona is firmly back on track with eight straight wins since its three-game losing streak that led to a historic drop from No. 2 in the AP poll on Nov. 20 to unranked the following week.

Ayton's 19 rebounds marked a career high and contributed to enthusiastic social-media responses to his performance:

Wildcats head coach Sean Miller noted before the game he was particularly concerned about Arizona State's ability to generate fouls on offense.

"To me, the most revealing statistic they have going for them is their ability to score from the free-throw line," Miller said, via Kevin Zimmerman of Arizona Sports 98.7. "They're the furthest thing from just this small team that shoots threes. They really are efficient and they get to the foul line at the highest level."

That continued in this game, with Arizona State going 20-of-25 from the charity stripe, but it was offset by the team shooting 37.9 percent overall and 8-of-25 from three-point range.

The Sun Devils have no reason to be down after this loss. They've already built a terrific resume with excellent wins and still have 17 games remaining in the regular season, including a rematch against Arizona at home on Feb. 15.

Arizona is clearly trending in the right direction. Any concerns after a 3-3 start have been alleviated thanks to wins over Texas A&M on Dec. 5 and now Arizona State. The Wildcats could find themselves back in the Top 10 when next week's AP poll is released on the strength of this victory. 

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