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Pac-12 Tournament: Arizona avenges loss to ASU in home finale, advances to final and rematch with UCLA

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-asu-sun-devils-recap-highlights-stats-revenge-pac12-tournament-2023 Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS—The revenge game against ASU began the way the last one ended: with Devan Cambridge Jr. making a 3-pointer. That’s the only similarity between the games.

Arizona avenged yet another loss, holding the Sun Devils without a 3-pointer over the final 25-plus minutes in a 78-59 win in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals on Friday night at T-Mobile Arena.

The second-seeded Wildcats (27-6) move on to their 13th Pac-12 final, facing No. 1 UCLA (29-4) at 8:30 p.m. MST Saturday. That will provide them with a chance to go 9-0 in rematches under Tommy Lloyd, having lost 82-73 to the Bruins a week ago in the regular-season finale.

Arizona shot 56.4 percent, 62.1 percent in the second half, and made 10 of 19 3-pointers. But it was the Wildcats’ defense, particularly on the perimeter, that decided this one.

Sixth-seeded ASU (22-12) was 6 of 26 from 3, missing its last 13 tries including all nine in the second half. The Sun Devils shot 32.3 percent less than two weeks after 53.7 percent in Tucson and still needing Cambridge to hit a 60-footer at the buzzer to win.

Cambridge was 2 of 7 from 3 on Friday, finishing with eight points. No ASU player scored more than 10, while Arizona had four players in double figures.

Azuolas Tubelis led the way with 17 points (on 8-of-11 shooting) with nine rebounds, while Oumar Ballo was 7 of 10 for 14 points with 10 rebounds. Cedric Henderson Jr. had 14, Pelle Larsson 11 and Kerr Kriisa finished with five points, three rebounds and seven assists with zero turnovers one night after injuring his shoulder.

Arizona led 35-28 at the half, holding the Sun Devils to 29.4 percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes. ASU, which made only three 2-point shots in the first half, made four baskets inside the arc in the first 3:16 of the second half as it tried to open up its perimeter game.

Instead, the officiating tightened. ASU was whistled four times in an 12-second span, but Arizona couldn’t take advantage as it missed all four free throw attempts, and the Sun Devils cut the deficit to 45-40 with 15:14 remaining.

Less than two minutes later, Arizona’s lead was back to 10. The margin was 11 with 11:02 left before the UA started turning it over, giving the ball away four times in 2 ½ minutes and not making a shot for more than three.

ASU cut it to 56-52 with 7:06 remaining, not long after Henderson got his fourth foul, only to see Arizona run off seven points in 57 seconds via two Ballo baskets and a Ballo block that set up a Larsson 3 to make it 63-52 with 5:51 left.

Then, after six misses, Kriisa swished a 3 from the top of the key with 4:23 to go to put Arizona up 14.

The night started the way the last ASU matchup ended, with Desmond Cambridge draining a 3 (this one from much closer). That was the first of four triples the Sun Devils would make in the first eight minutes to lead 16-15.

ASU would make only one basket the next four-plus minutes while Arizona got 3s from Kylan Boswell and Larsson and then a transition dunk from Larsson off a turnover for a 23-18 lead with 8:11 left in the first half.

Arizona built a 31-21 edge with 5:54 to go in the first half, but after Ballo scored with 4:56 left the Wildcats didn’t make another field goal. ASU couldn’t get closer than seven, though, shooting only 29.4 percent in the first half.

The UA is 8-4 all-time in Pac-12 finals, and this will be the second year in a row (third time overall) it will face UCLA for the title. The Wildcats beat the Bruins 82-76 last season.