Welcome to the Territorial Cup rivalry, Azuolas Tubelis!
Tubelis’ layup as time expired gave the Arizona Wildcats an 84-82 win at ASU on Thursday night, beating the Sun Devils in Tempe for the first time since 2018.
What a finish and what a win for Arizona at ASU pic.twitter.com/qrFSKE09ie— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) January 22, 2021
Tubelis, who had eight points and seven rebounds, caught an airballed 3-point attempt by James Akinjo and laid it in with fractions of a second left on the clock. That came after he was inexplicably called for a tripping foul with 32.9 seconds to go, even though replays clearly showed he had no contact with ASU’s Remy Martin.
Arizona coach Sean Miller needed to be restrained on the sideline in reaction to the call, but Tubelis remained calm and blocked Martin’s potential game-winning layup with nine seconds left to set up his winning basket.
Down seven with 4:42 to go, Arizona outscored ASU 15-6 the rest of the way and finished the game on a 7-0 run.
Akinjo led Arizona (11-3, 5-3 Pac-12) with 24 points, one shy of his UA best, and tied a career high with five 3-pointers. Terrell Brown Jr. had 14 while Bennedict Mathurin and Dalen Terry had 13 apiece.
Arizona led 35-30 at the half after leading by 11 early, and had a seven-point edge after the first minute before ASU (4-7, 1-4) fought back. A dunk by Chris Osten gave the Sun Devils a 45-43 lead with 14:57 left, their first lead since 3-0.
But the UA caught fire offensively, hitting 6 of 7 shots and using a 6-0 run to lead 56-51 with 11:46 to go, only to see ASU make 6 of 8 and go on a 13-4 run to take a 64-640 lead with 8:27 remaining.
Akinjo’s fourth 3-pointer keyed a 7-0 run, with Mathurin’s 3-point play give the Wildcats a 67-64 edge with 6:48 remaining.
What followed was a 12-0 Sun Devils run in less than two minutes, with the first nine points coming from the foul line before Martin drained a 3-pointer to make it 76-67 with 4:42 to go.
Arizona got within 79-77 with 2:42 left on a give-and-go from Mathurin to Tubelis, but then Josh Christopher drained a 3 to up the edge back to five.
Akinjo’s fifth 3—which came immediately after he drew a charge on Martin—and two Terrell Brown free throws tied the game at 82 with 1:02 remaining.
A frenetic early pace saw Arizona hit three 3-pointers in the first 2:08, two by Akinjo, setting the tone for a first half in which the Wildcats would make more triples (seven) than 2-point baskets (five).
The Wildcats were able to build a 25-14 lead before going into one of their scoring droughts, going 4:06 without points and almost five minutes without a basket. That allowed ASU to pulled within 2 at 25-23 before Akinjo hit his third 3 of the opening half.
ASU could not take care of the ball, turning it 12 times in the first half, yet Arizona couldn’t take advantage, turning those dozen giveaways into only seven points.
Arizona shot 47.5 percent, made 11 of 20 3s and was 15 of 17 from the line, including 11 of 13 in the second half, but turned it over 14 times. ASU finished with 16 turnovers, was 11 of 21 from 3 and made 21 of 29 foul shots.
Arizona and ASU continue their home-and-home battle on Monday when the Sun Devils come to McKale Center. The Wildcats will try to sweep the season series for the first time since 2017-18, while the Sun Devils will try to snap a 5-game skid and win for the first time since Dec. 13s.