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Arizona men’s basketball escapes ASU with New Year’s Eve win

arizona-wildcats-asu-sun-devils-mens-basketball-recap-highlights-stats-territorial-cup-2022-pac12 Arizona Athletics

TEMPE—ASU brought out the worst in Arizona. It was still good enough for the Wildcats’ first road win of the season.

The fifth-ranked Wildcats beat rival ASU for the fifth straight game and 15th time in the last 18 meetings, leading wire-to-wire in a 69-60 win Saturday afternoon at Desert Financial Arena.

Arizona (13-1, 2-1 Pac-12) led by as many as 18 in the first half before nearly blowing a 17-point halftime edge. The Wildcats never trailed, though, despite shooting a season-low 37.7 percent and a season-low 24 points in the paint.

Azuolas Tubelis had 21 points and nine rebounds, Oumar Ballo had 12 points and 12 boards and Kerr Kriisa had 12 points with five assists for Arizona, which failed to top 70 points for just the sixth time in 51 games under Tommy Lloyd.

The UA is 2-4 in those games, with both wins over the Sun Devils (11-3, 2-1).

Arizona led 45-28 at halftime, holding ASU to 28.9 percent shooting including 2 of 16 from 3 in the first half, but the Sun Devils came out on fire in the first minute-plus after the break. An 8-0 run, fueled by a pair of UA turnovers, got the deficit down to single digits for the first time since the 10-minute mark of the first half.

ASU made its first seven shots, four on dunks, and nine of 10. Luther Muhammad’s jumper with 14:13 left cut the UA margin to 49-46, forcing Lloyd to finally call timeout after holding off doing so earlier in the run.

The Devils got as close as two and had multiple chances to tie or take the lead but couldn’t, then starting guards Desmond Cambridge Jr. and Frankie Collins picked up their fourth fouls in a 19-second span. With them on the bench, Arizona went on a 6-0 run to lead 59-50 with 8:30 left after Ballo dunked this alley-oop from Courtney Ramey.

Two huge baskets from Tubelis inside got the lead back to double figures, but a flagrant technical on Tubelis for shoving an ASU player left enabled the Devils to get within 64-58 with 2:16 left. ASU missed its next three shots, while Arizona made 6 of 8 free throws, and after the hot second-half start the home team went 5 of 21 the rest of the way.

The Sun Devils actually shot worse than Arizona, making 36.2 percent of their shots, and were massively outscored at the line. The UA was 24 of 28 on foul shots compared to 7 of 10 for ASU.

Arizona tried to establish the inside game early but to no avail, managing only two paint points (with two turnovers) in its first nine possessions. Yet it still managed to build a double-digit lead just seven minutes in thanks to early 3s from Ramey and Kriisa.

ASU, on the other hand, could only score inside for much of the first half. The Sun Devils missed their first 13 3-point tries, finally getting one in from Alonzo Gaffney with 4:09 left before halftime to cut the UA lead to 34-19.

Arizona returns home Thursday to host Washington (9-5, 1-2). The Wildcats have won 27 in a row at McKale Center.