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Pac-12 notes: Surging Arizona State takes control of league race

Oregon’s Payton Pritchard named Player of the Week

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With two weeks remaining in the regular season it is Arizona State — not preseason favorites Oregon, Colorado, or Arizona — that owns the inside track at winning the Pac-12 Conference

On Dec. 18, Arizona State lost by 40 to St. Mary’s in a contest that essentially was a home game played at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix. The Sun Devils then opened Pac-12 play with losses in three of their first four games, culminating in a home loss against Colorado on Jan. 16.

Since then, though, ASU has been a different team, winning nine of the past 10 games, including the past seven in a row.

Bobby Hurley has emerged as a leading candidate as the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, and while junior guard Remy Martin probably will not supplant Oregon’s Payton Pritchard as the favorite for the Player of the Year, it won’t be from lack of effort. Martin has averaged 20.3 points during league play, and he has shot .429 (18-for-42) on 3-pointers during ASU’s seven-game win streak.

Junior guard Alonzo Verge, averaging 14.6 points overall this season, also has been on a tear, averaging 20.6 points during ASU’s winning streak.

“I think we are getting better as a team and we have not peaked yet,” Hurley told reporters after the Sun Devils’ win Saturday against Oregon State. “That’s a good feeling to have this time of year. Where we were at one point, and we’ve kind of transformed ourselves and really have found an identity…having a lot of guys playing well at the right time of the year. You have a team you have to rip their heart out to beat them, and that’s what we’re bringing to the court every game. It was just a commitment. Everyone made it. We feel we could do more and we started playing up to our level.”

ASU takes its hot streak to Los Angeles this week, facing UCLA on Thursday (9 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks) in a showdown between the league’s two hottest teams before visiting USC on Saturday. The Sun Devils then complete the regular season with home dates against Washington and Washington State.

Weekly honors

After a career night against Arizona, Pritchard was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Monday. And partially at the expense of the Buffs, UCLA’s Tyger Campbell was named the Freshman of the Week.

Pritchard poured in a career-high 38 points in a thrilling overtime road win against the Wildcats, tying the sixth-best scoring effort for a Ducks player and marking the highest-scoring total for Oregon since Tajuan Porter scored 38 points against Portland State on Nov. 12, 2006. Pritchard went 6-for-14 on 3-pointers and 8-for-8 on free throws. He is on pace to become just the fourth player to lead the conference in both scoring and assists, joining a club that includes Gary Payton, Damon Stoudamire, and Jason Terry.

Campbell was the catalyst of UCLA’s win Saturday at CU, recording his first career double-double with 15 points and a career-high 11 assists. Campbell also had just one turnover, leading an effort in which the Bruins did not commit a single turnover after halftime. Two days earlier in a win at Utah, Campbell recorded 13 points and four assists.

Notable

Utah will be holding its breath regarding the status of freshman guard Rylan Jones, who suffered an apparent left knee injury while taking a charge late in the Utes’ home win against USC on Sunday…The Pac-12 NET Rankings to begin the week (through Sunday): Arizona (8), Colorado (18), Oregon (20), Stanford (31), Arizona State (41), USC (47), Washington (65), Oregon State (68), UCLA (76), Utah (81), Washington State (121), and Cal (142).