LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Arizona does have some experience.
Luke Walton scored 25 points and Jason Gardner added 22 as 14th-ranked Arizona pulled away for a 73-56 victory over Arizona State in the Pac-10 Conference quarterfinals.
In the Wildcats' march to the NCAA title game last season, Walton and Gardner both played key roles. The juniors have been asked to do even more this season as Arizona has a roster that features seven freshman, many of whom contribute.
Showing some of their tournament experience, Walton and Gardner accounted for more than half of the Wildcats' points Thursday.
"Luke had an exceptional game," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "Jason stepped up as he always does and hitting 12 free throws at the end of the second half was key." Walton finished 11-of-16 from the field, grabbed nine rebounds and also handed out four assists. He had 11 points in the first half, helping Arizona open a 32-23 lead.
Walton talked about last Saturday's 99-53 victory over California being key.
"Losing a huge game to Stanford, we had to everybody know the regular season wasn't over and that we had a huge game on Saturday that would lead us into the Pac-10 tournament and the NCAA tournament and we just had to play ball," Walton said.
Arizona (20-9) reached 20 wins for the 15th straight season and will face either UCLA or California in Friday's semifinals.
Freshman Jason Braxton netted 12 points for the Sun Devils (14-14), who have lost 13 of 14 meetings with their intrastate rival and will be hoping for a bid to the National Invitation Tournament.
"There are very few times after a basketball game that we lose that I'm not feeling very good, but even fewer times that I'm sick to my stomach," Arizona State coach Rob Evans said. "I'm extremely sick to my stomach right now. For the first time in a long time, I feel that our team did not compete like you compete to win games, especially against a rival in a conference tournament." The Sun Devils played their last six games against ranked teams, going just 1-5, beating only UCLA on February 15.
After Tommy Smith scored the games's opening basket, it was all downhill for the Sun Devils, who went scoreless for the next 8:14 while falling into a hole they could not dig themselves out of.
Walton netted the Wildcats' first six points and had eight in a burst that provided a 23-6 advantage with 7:33 left in the half. Gardner had five points in the surge, including a long 3-pointer.
Gardner made 4-of-8 shots from the field and all 12 of his attempts from the line.
The Sun Devils did attempt to rally, using a 12-0 run that lasted under 2 1/2 minutes, capped by a follow shot by Chad Prewitt to pull within 23-18 with 5:02 remaining before intermission.
But Walton sank two foul shots, Isaiah Fox had a basket and fellow freshman Salim Stoudamire scored the final five points of the half, giving Arizona a nine-point lead at the break.
In the half, the Sun Devils shot just 35.5 percent (11-of-31), missed all seven of their foul shots and went 1-of-8 from 3-point range.
Walton scored six points to key a 16-8 run to start the second half. Gardner and Stoudamire each drilled a 3-pointer in the burst that made it 48-31 with under 12 minutes remaining.
Just as they did in the first half, the Sun Devils made a run. Justin Allen made a pair of 3-pointers and Kenny Crandall another in a 12-4 surge, pulling Arizona State within 51-43 with 8:26 remaining.
But Arizona responded to that run by reeling off the next 12 points. Walton had six in the surge, helping the Wildcats open a commanding 63-43 advantage with 4:53 remaining.