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No. 5 Arizona holds off rival Arizona State’s 2nd-half charge

Dec 20, 2022; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Arizona Wildcats Head Coach Tommy Lloyd argues with the ref in the first half at McKale Center. Mandatory Credit: Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

Azuolas Tubelis scored 21 points and Oumar Ballo had a double-double to help No. 5 Arizona survive after squandering almost all of a 17-point halftime lead in a 69-60 road win over Arizona State in Tempe on Saturday.

Tubelis scored 13 points in the first half, when the Wildcats (13-1, 2-1 Pac-12) were in complete control, leading 45-28 at the break. But ASU (11-3, 2-1) flashed the defensive intensity that led to its early season success with four steals in seven minutes, closing to 49-47 with 13:06 to go. That was close as the Devils would get as their offense went cold again.

Ballo had his sixth double-double of the season (12 points, 12 rebounds), and he capped a 6-0 run with an alley-oop dunk for a 59-50 lead with 8:30 left, helping to provide enough just insurance. The Sun Devils twice had a chance to get within one possession late in the game, but Desmond Cambridge Jr. missed 3-point tries on back-to-back possessions, including one at the 1:39 mark, with ASU down 64-58.

Seven Arizona State players scored at least six points, but only Frankie Collins reached double digits (12). The Sun Devils never found the accuracy they needed from 3-point range, missing their first 13 attempts from beyond the arc and finishing 3 of 27.

Kerr Kriisa had 12 points and five assists for the Wildcats. Tubelis also pulled down nine rebounds.

Arizona, which entered the game averaging 90.2 points and leading the country in field-goal percentage (53.2), made only 26.9 percent in the second half, when it missed all 10 attempts from behind the arc. The Wildcats did help themselves at the free-throw line, making 24 of 28.

After their sleepy first half, the Sun Devils came out of the break with an 8-0 run to climb within 45-36 and activate the crowd for the first time all game. ASU made its first seven shots of the half — including four dunks — and trimmed its 17-point halftime deficit to 49-42 in the first four minutes.

–Field Level Media