Arizona State (20-9, 11-7 Pac-12) upset No. 7 Arizona (24-5, 13-5 Pac-12) 89-88 in an all-time classic Saturday afternoon in Tucson on the back of a miraculous buzzer-beater by Desmond Cambridge Jr.
Up 87-86 with 2.9 seconds to go in a back-and-forth classic between Arizona State and Arizona, Oumar Ballo (7 points, 3 rebounds) had to hit two free throws to ensure nothing less than a tie or win at the end of regulation for the Wildcats. The gym was silent awaiting the results of an exhausting game.
The first attempt–– clank, no good. Second shot, drained.
With two seconds on the clock and no timeouts, Cambridge Jr. (19 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) took the ball up the right side, just past the Arizona free throw line, and shot from 60-feet away as all eyes were on the ball.
The sea of red in the McKale Center watched him drill the game-winning shot on senior night in Tucson, and the gold monsoon that rushed the floor after a potential season-altering win for ASU, and back-breaking loss for Arizona.
We will leave this here.— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) February 25, 2023
This game was madness from beginning to end.
The first half started extremely well for the Road Devils. At the 10-minute mark, ASU was neck-and-neck with the Wildcats thanks to a great shooting start from a few different names. The Sun Devils were 11-17 to start the game, including threes from Alonzo Gaffney (10 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists) , DJ Horne (18 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists), and Jamiyah Neal (12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) who knocked down two early long range shots.
Pelle Larsson (16 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists) and Cedric Henderson Jr. (19 points) led the way for Arizona, combining for 21 of the first 31 points as a one-two punch off the bench and starting, respectively. Each side was feeling it from behind the arc to begin the game, with ASU starting 4-for-8 and Arizona 5-for-9.
Ballo got into trouble early on with two quick fouls and only two points, but the Sun Devils’ Warren Washington was on the bench with two of his own, and Hurley’s smaller lineup was unable to take advantage in the rebounding department, getting outscored by six on second-chance opportunities.
ASU was able to take advantage on the perimeter, though. Arizona had the tempo controlled for a majority of the first half, but the Sun Devils were taking calculated risks on steal attempts, and succeeding in moments of need. Gaffney had steals on two straight possessions leading to points, and the combination of Horne and Cambridge Jr. added two more throughout the half.
The action was going back-and-forth down the stretch to end the half, both sides trading baskets, turnovers and fouls in near perfect sequence. Every time the home crowd tried raising the noise, ASU would come up with a big shot, like Luther Muhammad when he tied the game at 37 from the right wing on a dirty jab fake — his only basket of the game.
Likewise, Arizona was hitting those shots too. With the clock winding down from 10 seconds to go in the half, the Sun Devils were up 46-42. Henderson Jr. worked his defender on the wing, stepped back and hit a buzzer-beater from downtown to close the half trailing by just one at home.
Each side was shooting 59% from the field, made five-or-more three-point shots and were proving why this rivalry reigns supreme on a national stage.
The opening minutes of the second half were a trading of triples: back-to-back threes by Arizona and a response from DJ Horne. A sloppy stretch of turnovers and fouls by Tommy Lloyd’s Wildcats brought ASU back to life, tying the game at 53.
Warren Washington (16 points, 3 rebounds), playing with three fouls, caught a big lob to put the Devils up two, immediately followed by a Courtney Ramey (14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assist) three to regain the lead for the Wildcats at 57-56. A 6-0 run for Arizona forced a timeout from Hurley with 13:32 on the clock, with ASU now trailing by five off the back of a Larsson corner three.
Washington would trade baskets with Azuolas Tubelis (17 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists) from mid-range and inside for the next three minutes, bringing the score to 69-63 at the 10-minute media timeout. The crowd at McKale Center was bringing down the “F- - - ASU” chants as they watched their ‘Cats lead, but the game was brought back to one score by Alonzo Gaffney three right out of the timeout.
Gaffney proceeded to pick up his fourth foul with 9:23 to go in the game, forcing him out of the game down the stretch. At that point, Arizona was in the bonus and shooting free throws the rest of the way, but without Ballo who picked up his fourth foul moments later.
Washington took advantage of the smaller Arizona lineup with a quick and-one, but missed the free throw to convert. The Wildcats went right down the floor for a bucket plus-the-foul to stretch the lead to 76-68 at the seven-minute mark.
ASU went 1-for-7 in that time on some ugly shots by Cambridge Jr. and Neal that were forced by the Wildcats defense. Free throws were starting to pile up for Arizona, hitting 13-of-22 to ASU’s 3-of-5 and were starting to be the difference on the scoreboard.
Frustration was building on the Sun Devils’ side as the lead ballooned to 10 for Arizona, Devan Cambridge couldn’t capitalize on an and-one opportunity, and Neal continued to struggle in the second half. Horne finally hit his signature floater to bring the gap back to six, followed by a timeout by the Wildcats.
At 78-72 in favor of U of A with five minutes to play, Arizona State needed a lot to go right with Arizona in the bonus+. Washington, Frankie Collins and Gaffney all were at risk with four fouls, so they had to be extra careful. All game long the bench was stepping up for the Sun Devils, combining for 26 of the 76 points with four minutes to go.
Devan Cambridge joined the four-fouls club on a lob attempt to Ballo, who hit the free throws to put Arizona up 82-76 before Washington drew a foul to cut the lead to four. The final three minutes started with a crazy sequence that led to a Cambridge Jr. three to bring it back to a one point game.
Here we go.
Cambridge fouled out on another lob attempt, this time to Larsson with two minutes to go. The Wildcats’ top bench scorer went 1-for-2 at the stripe, though, allowing DJ Horne to knock down a go-ahead three pointer, giving the Sun Devils the lead for the first time since the 15-minute point. Arizona State hadn’t allowed a field goal to Arizona in over five minutes, but the free throws were keeping them ahead.
Warren Washington hit a huge shot under the basket with a minute to go, and Arizona responded with a beautiful layup by Larsson. Arizona’s record at home over the last two seasons, 32-1, was at risk of adding a painful loss to its ledger.
ASU had the ball in its hands with 24 seconds left and no timeouts on either side. DJ Horne and Warren Washington played a two man game, neither wanting to take the shot. Horne eventually threw up a triple that nearly went down, but was rebounded by Ballo.
The madness that commenced after that can only be described by seeing it with your own eyes.
Arizona State heads into the final week of the regular season with as big of a win as we’ve ever seen in Bobby Hurley’s time at ASU. UCLA and USC round out this roller-coaster season on Thursday and Saturday. Until then, watch the highlights on replay.