PALM DESERT, Calif.—If it felt like you’d seen that exact same Arizona game recently, you’re not having deja vu. It happened about two weeks ago on the other side of the country.
The third-ranked Wildcats squandered a 10-point halftime lead, falling behind late in the second half as foul trouble mounted, but kept their composure to pull out a 74-68 win over No. 21 Michigan State on Thanksgiving afternoon.
The UA (6-0) outscored MSU 11-2 over the final 3:57 after trailing for the first time all game, with Keshad Johnson’s putback at the 2:57 mark giving it the lead back for good. Johnson, who was named MVP of the Acrisure Invitational, also had the go-ahead 3-point play in Arizona’s 73-68 win at then-No. 2 Duke on Nov. 10.
Johnson had 13 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks, the last coming with 15.9 seconds left. Caleb Love then got a steal near midcourt with two seconds to go and KJ Lewis iced the win with a dunk that was eerily similar to his flush at the end of the Duke win.
The Wildcats led by as many as 15 in the first half but found themselves in a 2-score game for much of the second half. Foul trouble on Johnson and Pelle Larsson, who fouled out with 4:37 left on a 3-point play by AJ Hoggard to put the Spartans up 64-63, caused Tommy Lloyd to regularly play four guards in the second half. And ineffective play by both Oumar Ballo and Motiejus Krivas resulted in four guards with Johnson at the five for the final five minutes.
Arizona led 40-30 at the half thanks to at least five layups off back cuts, as well as some pull-up 3s by Kylan Boswell, who had all 12 of his points before halftime. Michigan State (3-3) opened the second half on a 9-2 run to get within 3 and had three point-blank shots to get within a point before Love drained another 3 to get it back to a 2-possession lead.
Third fouls on Johnson and Larsson, plus Ballo struggling, led Lloyd to play four true guards with freshman Krivas for a few minutes. The 4-guard lineup continued with Ballo for another two-plus minutes and MSU cut it to 55-51 with 9:41 left.
Two Johnson free throws made it 61-53 with 7:52 to go but nine seconds later Larsson got his fourth foul and had to sit again. Johnson got his fourth with 5:49 remaining and again it was a 4-guard lineup, with MSU narrowing the deficit to 62-59 shortly thereafter.
The Wildcats went almost five minutes without a field goal as MSU went on an 11-1 run to take a 66-63 lead with 3:58 remaining. The Spartans would miss their last six shots and shoot 40.6 percent for the game, compared to 45.8 for Arizona.
Arizona’s defense limited MSU to only four field goals in the first 12-plus minutes of the game, leading to a 24-10 edge. The Spartans made eight of their final 12 shots of the half, including a pair of uncontested baskets in the final minute to get within seven, before Love drained a three just before the buzzer to make it a 10-point halftime edge.
Love had a team-high 17 points but was 7 of 20 from the field. The Wildcats once again had all five starters in double figures for the fourth time this season.
The UA is off until Dec. 2 when it hosts Colgate.