TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona State’s latest rivalry loss appeared imminent even after a late rally, with a desperate heave all that was left.
Desmond Cambridge Jr. cashed it in, swishing a McKale miracle to keep the Sun Devils’ NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
Cambridge Jr. hit a 60-foot shot at the buzzer and Arizona State rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat No. 7 Arizona 89-88 on Saturday.
“I did not think that shot was going in,” said Cambridge, who finished with 19 points. “I just wanted to have a nice miss and everyone in the crowd go, “ohhh!” Once it went in, I literally could only scream because I couldn’t make sense of it.”
The Wildcats (24-5, 13-5 Pac-12) led by 10 before going more than six minutes without a field goal as Arizona State pulled ahead by one.
The Sun Devils (20-9, 11-7) went up 86-85 on Warren Washington’s layup with just a minute left, but Pelle Larsson put Arizona back up on a layup with 29 seconds left.
Arizona State’s DJ Horne missed a jumper with four seconds left and the Sun Devils had a final shot after Oumar Ballo hit 1 of 2 free throws.
Catching the ball with 2.4 seconds left, Cambridge left the fans at McKale Center stunned, launching a shot from beyond half-court that sent his teammates charging onto the floor in celebration.
“We were sitting on pocket aces and it happens sometimes,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said.
Cedric Henderson Jr. led Arizona with 19 points and Azuoulas Tubelis added 17.
In the first meeting, Arizona State went on a big run to open the second half, but Lloyd didn’t call a timeout, letting his team play through the adversity. The Wildcats responded with a run over their own for a 69-60 win on a night when neither team shot better than 37%.
The rematch was all about the offense.
The Sun Devils hit as many 3-pointers in the first eight minutes as they did the entire first game and shot 20 of 34 from the floor to lead 46-45.
The Wildcats hit 16 of 27 shots, including Henderson’s buzzer-beating 3, but went 7 of 14 on free throws.
The good shooting trailed off only slightly to start the second half.
Arizona went on a short run to build a six-point lead and the Sun Devils started taking questionable shots, allowing the Wildcats to stretch it to 78-68.
Even after turning up the defensive pressure to get back in it, Arizona State appeared to be down and out – until Cambridge came to the rescue, ending the Sun Devils’ five-game losing streak to Arizona.
“A lot of people were jumping ship and thinking we’re not that team, but we are that team and the guys proved it tonight by going toe to toe with a team like Arizona on their home floor this late in the season,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said.
Arizona State played without guard Austin Nunez, who was in concussion protocol after being injured against Utah last week.
The freshman point guard is averaging 4.5 points while giving the Sun Devils an energy boost off the bench.
FREE THROW WOES
Arizona had a huge advantage in free throws, outscoring Arizona State by 12 at the line.
The Wildcats could have used a few more to go in, finishing 23 of 34.
“You’d like to be make one or two more, it probably makes a difference,” Lloyd said.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils needed some kind of boost for their NCAA Tournament chances. One of the most stunning finishes in the history of the rivalry certainly should help.
Arizona: The Wildcats were in control before going cold from the field at the wrong time. Their seniors will never forget how their final home game ended after Cambridge’s stunner.
Arizona State: Plays at No. 4 UCLA on Thursday.
Arizona: Plays at Southern California on Thursday.