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Arizona knocks off No. 6 Tennessee to avenge first loss of Tommy Lloyd era

arizona-wildcats-tennessee-volunteers-recap-highlights-stats-pac12-sec-mckale-ramey-ballo Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Courtney Ramey wasn’t a party to Arizona’s loss at Tennessee last season, but as a veteran of the Big 12 he’s had plenty of experience playing in high-level games.

On Saturday night, he put that training to good use.

The Texas transfer hit four 3-pointers, all in huge spots, and dished out a key assist late to help the ninth-ranked Wildcats beat No. 6 Tennessee 75-70 on Saturday night at McKale Center.

A sold-out crowd of 14,644 saw the UA (10-1) avenge last December’s 77-73 loss in Knoxville by being the more assertive team, using Tennessee’s physical defensive approach to its advantage. Arizona made 24 of 27 free throws, compared to 8 of 10 for the Vols (10-2).

Pelle Larsson was 9 of 9 from the line, finishing with 17 points and nine rebounds, and also drew 10 of Tennessee’s 23 total fouls, while Oumar Ballo was 6 of 7 at the stripe to score 18 with eight rebounds. Azuolas Tubelis went for 19 and 9, making 7 of 11 shots.

Tennessee’s Zakai Zeigler had 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting, with Olivier Nkamhoua adding 16. The Vols held Arizona to 42.6 percent shooting and had a 29-0 edge in bench points but couldn’t overcome the foul discrepancy.

A promised “fistfight,” per UA coach Tommy Lloyd, the game saw each team hit with a technical and a postgame skirmish near midcourt.

Tied at 35 at the half, Arizona built a 6-point lead before the first media timeout while continuing to keep Tennessee in foul trouble. Center Uros Plavsic, a former ASU signee, picked up his third foul on a moving screen just 62 seconds into the second half and had to go to the bench.

Plavsic had already endeared himself to the McKale crowd in the first half when he was called for taunting against Ballo after a made basket just three minutes in.

The Vols didn’t attempt their first free throws until 15:51 left, after Arizona had gone to the line 14 times including 12 in the first half.

A 3 by Ramey gave the Wildcats a 48-41 advantage, and Kerr Kriisa’s triple made again made it a 7-point edge with 12:45 to go. The potential knockout punch game about five minutes later, when after Kylan Boswell hounded Tennessee’s Zeigler on the perimeter the Vols’ point guard made a bad pass inside that was picked off by Henri Veesaar, starting a break that ended with Ramey hitting his fourth triple to make it 61-51 with 7:22 remaining.

But Kriisa was called for a technical shortly thereafter, giving Tennessee a 4-point play that set off a 10-2 run to get within 63-61 with 6:00 left.

Tennessee had a pair of chances to take the lead with under four minutes to go but couldn’t, throwing it away the first time and missing a pair of 3s on the second. Arizona then followed with a game-clinching 5-0 run, starting with this dime from Ramey to Larsson for the basket and foul to lead 71-65 with 1:54 remaining.

he heavyweight fight started with a flurry, with four lead changes in the first three minutes and seven in the first nine minutes. During that stretch was the first of several early physical moments in the game when Plavsic got his technical.

Plasvic was one of five Vols to get second fouls in the first half. His second, with 5:45 left before the break, saw him get into it with UA fans behind the Tennessee bench as he sat.

Tennessee finally broke the back-and-forth with a 10-2 run to lead 27-20, but Arizona responded with a 13-4 run to re-take the lead on two Larsson free throws with 1:13 left before halftime. A backdoor layup from Jahmal Mashack with two seconds to go tied it at 35.

The UA is back in action Tuesday at home against Montana State, which won 144-59 over non-Division I school Northwest Indian on Saturday night.