The road remains very unkind to the Arizona Wildcats. And like the previous losses, they have only themselves to blame.
Arizona blew a 13-point halftime lead after being up by as many as 22 points in the first half, falling 66-65 to the Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday night at Desert Financial Arena.
ASU’s Alonzo Verge Jr. drove past Jemarl Baker Jr. for the game-winning basket with 10.9 seconds remaining, with Josh Green missing in the paint at the buzzer on the other end as the Wildcats lost their fifth consecutive true road game dating back to last March.
“We’re not a confident group, we really aren’t,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said afterward. “You don’t get rewarded for playing well for part of the game, you have to play well for the entire game.”
Green went 0 for 8 in the game, scoring a career-low two points in 31 minutes.
Arizona’s last points came with 1:41 left when Nico Mannion—who had 16 points with four 3-pointers but battled foul trouble all night—hit a pair of free throws to put his team up 65-63. After ASU’s Jalen Graham made 1 of 2 free throws with 1:23 to go Mannion was called for traveling just past midcourt, the last of Arizona’s season-high 18 turnovers, and after each team had an empty possession Verge scored the game-winner.
“I think our starters had 15 of the 18 (turnovers),” Miller said. “That’s really hard to overcome.”
Zeke Nnaji had 21 points an 10 rebounds but attempted only nine shots, with just four in the second half as Arizona (13-6, 3-3 Pac-12) shot 28 percent over the final 20 minutes after shooting 50 percent in the first half.
The Wildcats were also 0 for 8 from 3 in the second half after hitting 6 of 12 triples before halftime.
Arizona led 37-15 in the first half but only held a 43-30 edge at halftime after three terrible offensive possessions allowed ASU to end on a 6-0 run. It would manage only 22 points in the second half, the same number it had during a prolonged first-half stretch that seemed to have put the game away early.
The Sun Devils scored the first 10 points of the second half—the first seven by Remy Martin, who had 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting—to get within 43-40 with 16:27 left. During that span Mannion picked up his third foul while the UA went 0 for 4 from the field and turned it over twice.
Arizona scored for the first time in 6:17 on a Stone Gettings layup, then Ira Lee dunked on a putback, but ASU scored the next six points to make it a 47-46 game with 13:09 left.
The Sun Devils knotted it at 49 with 11:37 but couldn’t push into the lead, the teams trading baskets for several minutes. Mannion picked up his fourth foul with 10:01 left, forcing Jemarl Baker Jr. into the point guard role.
Arizona built a 59-55 lead with 6:10 left on a pair of Nnaji free throws (along with two misses) before ASU scored the next five points. Martin’s drive with 4:29 made it 60-59, the Sun Devils’ first lead since the 14:28 mark of the first half.
Mannion returned at the 4:18 mark, and his two free throws with 1:41 left put Arizona ahead for the last time.
The game was tied at 12 early when Arizona put together a 22-1 run to lead 34-13. During that five-minute stretch, which 16 straight points, the Wildcats made 9 of 12 shots while ASU missed 10 straight including several shots that either missed the rim or hit the side of the backboard.
Mannion hit three 3s during the run while Nnaji had 7 points inside.
ASU went on a 7-0 run to get within 37-22 but then Baker Jr. fed a streaking Lee on the break for a monstrous dunk to quiet the suddenly hopeful DFA mustard-and-blood-clad crowd.
Arizona didn’t score over the final 1:40 of the first half, though, letting ASU start its comeback before halftime.
The Wildcats continue their season-long three-game road trip when they visit Washington on Thursday.
“We haven’t won on the road and we’ve got two more,” Miller said. “I don’t have anything positive to say to that.”