Tubelis scores 21, No. 5 Arizona beats Arizona State 69-60

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TEMPE, Ariz. – Azuolas Tubelis scored 21 points, Oumar Ballo had 12 points and 12 rebounds, and No. 5 Arizona withstood a second-half comeback by Arizona State for a 69-60 victory Saturday.

Kerr Kriisa had 12 points and five assists for the Wildcats (13-1, 2-1 Pac-12), who won their fifth straight in the series. They entered averaging 90.2 points per game, second in Division I. Neither team shot better than 40% from the floor.

“We’re going to be a great defensive and rebounding team,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “I’m making no druthers about that. I don’t care what our offense is ranked. We play to get the result.”

The Sun Devils (11-3, 2-1) scored 19 of the first 23 points of the second half after going to a full-court press and cut a 45-28 halftime deficit to 49-47 with 13 minutes left. Lloyd did not call a timeout during Arizona State’s big run, and when it was over, Arizona responded with a 10-3 run to regain control.

“We lacked composure for a certain stretch, and I wanted our guys to figure it out,” Lloyd said. “There is a reason you try to build a lead in the first half, especially on the road. You have to try to stretch it out, because you know they are going to make that run. It’s about winning the game. It is not about who makes a run in the first half or a strong run in the second half. It’s finding a way to close out and win the game, and our guys did the job.”

Frankie Collins had 12 points to lead Arizona State and Devan Cambridge added nine. Leading scorer DJ Horne was held to seven points and was 3 of 11 from the floor. Arizona had a 44-36 rebounding edge and shot 37.7% from the floor. The Sun Devils shot 36.2%.

“They are so aggressive and scrappy,” Lloyd said. “Their ball pressure was tremendous. They did a really good job being active. We have to toughen up a little bit and find different ways to attack it.”

The Wildcats made 24 of 28 free-throws attempts. Arizona State was 7 of 10. The Sun Devils missed their first 13 3-point field-goal attempts and were 3 of 27 from behind the arc.

“I mean, it’s crazy,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “They’re a top-five team in the country and beating some really good teams, and we lost by nine and went 3 for 27 from 3. So hopefully the guys who are normally hitting the shots and making those shots will connect a little better as we move forward.”

Tubelis has scored in double figures in all 14 games.

“He’s one of the best players in the league, and I think he showed it tonight,” teammate Courtney Ramey said.

Ballo’s foul-line jumper, his first basket of the game, gave Arizona a 30-14 lead with 6:19 remaining in the first half, forcing an Arizona State timeout. As the teams headed to their benches, Kriisa said “be quiet” as looked toward the ASU student section.

The Wildcats led by as many as 18 points in the first half.

BIG PICTURE

Arizona looked every bit a top-five team in the first half, but the Wildcats had surprising difficulty against Arizona State’s aggressive full-court press in the second half. The Sun Devils could have found their way back into the AP Top 25 with a win. Regardless, they will remain a contender in the Pac-12 because of a harassing defense that had limited opponents to 36.7% shooting from the floor coming in.

UP NEXT

Arizona: The Wildcats have a home series against Washington and Washington State on Thursday and Saturday.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils also host to the Washington schools next weekend.

Former Arizona coach Sean Miller not sanctioned in NCAA case

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Former Arizona coach Sean Miller escaped sanctions when a report from the Independent Accountability Resolution Process largely accepted the program’s self-imposed penalties stemming from a NCAA rules violations case that dates back to 2017.

Arizona’s athletics program was put on three years of probation through 2025. The school announced a one-year postseason ban in December 2020, which took effect for the 2020-21 season.

The IARP report released said former assistant coach Emanuel Richardson was given a 10-year show-cause penalty after he “solicited and accepted $20,000 in cash bribes and paid $40,000 for a fraudulent academic transcript.”

Another former assistant coach, Mark Phelps, was given a two-year show cause after he provided “an impermissible benefit to a student-athlete and then directed the student-athlete to conceal the violation.”

Miller emerged largely unscathed from the report. He is now the head coach at Xavier.

“All of the actions, or nearly all of the actions that these two assistant coaches took, were covert,” IARP arbitrator Dana Welch said. “With respect to former assistant men’s basketball coach No. 1, they were criminal. It took the FBI two years of wiretapping to find out what he had done. So in our view, these kind of actions could not have been detected by the head coach.”

The basketball program will also lose one additional scholarship for the 2023-24 season.

“This has been a long journey and I am glad everything is finally finished,” Miller said in a statement. “I am excited to move forward. I’d like to thank my wife Amy and my entire family, (Xavier) President (Colleen) Hanycz and (Xavier athletic director) Greg Christopher for their support through the completion of this process.”

The Independent Accountability Resolution Process was created to handle particularly complex cases and acts outside the purview of the NCAA.

The infractions report said it “found no violation for the former head men’s basketball coach because the hearing panel determined that the former head men’s basketball coach demonstrated that he promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored two of his assistant coaches regarding the academic eligibility of men’s basketball prospective student-athletes, rebutting the presumption of head coach responsibility.”

The panel’s decision is final, meaning there will be no appeals.

Arizona was originally accused of nine counts of misconduct, including five Level I violations, in a Notice of Allegations sent by the NCAA in October 2020. The violations included a lack of institutional control and failure to monitor by the university, and lack of head coach control by Miller.

But the IARP report was much more lenient on Miller in its report.

Arizona announced in April 2021 that Miller was leaving the school after 12 seasons. The Wildcats hired former Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd to take his place.

Miller routinely pulled in some of the nation’s top recruiting classes after being lured from Xavier in 2009, but his recruiting methods came under scrutiny when Richardson was among 10 people arrested as part of a federal corruption investigation into college basketball.

Richardson was fired by the university and later pleaded guilty to accepting $20,000 in bribes from aspiring business manager Christian Dawkins. He was sentenced to three months in prison in 2019.

Miller sat out a game in 2018 after ESPN reported that he was heard on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to future No. 1 overall NBA pick Deandre Ayton. Miller vehemently denied the report and university President Robert C. Robbins announced a few days later that Miller would remain the Wildcats’ coach.

The investigation also included Arizona’s swimming and diving program, which received relatively minor penalties.

No. 10 Arizona tops No. 14 Indiana 89-75 in Vegas clash

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LAS VEGAS – Azuolas Tubelis scored 21 points and No. 10 Arizona defeated No. 14 Indiana 89-75 on Saturday night in the Vegas Clash.

The Wildcats (8-1) held off Indiana’s surge after their lead was trimmed to 59-56 on consecutive 3-pointers by the Hoosiers midway through the second half. Arizona responded with three straight 3s to build its cushion back to double digits.

Indiana (8-2) got as close as five late in the game, but the Wildcats’ dominance near the rim kept the Hoosiers at bay. Oumar Ballo’s dunk with 1:42 left added an exclamation point.

“I love the way these guys play and we love getting up and down,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “And then there is no panic. It’s fun. It’s fun being in those moments. I like to tell our guys, just let it rip and let’s run our stuff and trust our offense and usually that’ll be the solution in and of itself.”

Ballo had 15 points and 12 rebounds. Pelle Larsson scored 16 and Kerr Kriisa finished with 14.

Arizona also got a huge boost with 17 points from a bench that generally doesn’t provide that much offense.

“It’s huge, because people before the season were talking that we don’t have depth,” Kriisa said. “But I think today our young guys really showed their character.”

Indiana had five players in double figures, led by Race Thompson with 16 points and nine rebounds. Miller Kopp scored 14, Tamar Bates added 13, and Xavier Johnson and Trayce Jackson-Davis each finished with 11.

The Wildcats, who entered leading the nation in field goal percentage (55.2%), including a 64.5% clip from 2-point range, finished 31 of 63 (49.2%), with 21 of 38 (55%) coming from inside the arc.

Arizona finally found its groove from the 3-point line after going 8 of 48 (16.7%) from beyond the arc, hitting 10 of 25 (40%) from long range.

Arizona used a 17-0 run to build a 27-8 lead, but the Hoosiers tightened their defense and battled back to within five. Indiana’s 23-9 spurt late in the first half was sparked by four 3-pointers.

The Wildcats shot 45.5% from the floor before halftime, including 4 of 12 from 3-point range. Indiana was 12 for 37 (32.4%), including 5 of 15 from beyond the arc.

For the game, Arizona outscored the Hoosiers 42-22 in the paint.

“We got down early but I thought we fought. I can’t fault effort,” Indiana coach Mike Woodson said. “I thought we gave great effort, but you’ve got to give a lot of credit to this team. This Arizona team is a good team. I thought the game was won in the paint and they were the better team tonight in the paint.”

BIG PICTURE

Indiana: Both teams created 10 takeaways, but the Hoosiers were outscored 18-6 in points off turnovers.

Arizona: Improved to 8-3 against Top 25 opponents under Lloyd, including 3-0 this season with wins over then-No. 17 San Diego State and then-No. 10 Creighton.

UP NEXT

Indiana: Hosts No. 6 Kansas next Saturday.

Arizona: Hosts Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Tuesday.

No. 4 Arizona turning heads early in the season

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd knew there was talent on his roster. He wasn’t exactly sure how good the team would be.

The former longtime Gonzaga assistant had a similar view of last year’s team and that one turned out to be pretty good, running all the way to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

This year’s team could end up being even better.

Buoyed by transfers and improved returning players, Arizona has rolled through the early part of its schedule, climbing to No. 4 in this week’s AP Top 25 after winning the Maui Invitational.

“I learned that we’re good,” Lloyd said. “We’re tough. We’re gritty. I think there’s going to be some great things for us to really double down on and some things to show our guys where we went the wrong way.”

Lloyd had a superb first season in the desert, earning coach of the year honors last season with a team that lost three players to the NBA.

The Wildcats (6-0) had to replace three NBA players again this season. Again, they made a seamless transition.

Improvement on the part of the returning players has been a big part of it.

Oumar Ballo, considered a project as a freshman at Gonzaga, has transformed into one of the nation’s best big men. The 7-foot, 260-pound center from Mali has vastly improved his footwork and developed patience in the post, setting himself up for good shots instead of trying to bull his way to the basket.

Ballo is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 76.7% from the field, fourth-best nationally. He was named Maui Invitational MVP after finishing with 30 points and 13 rebounds against No. 7 Creighton in the title game.

Not bad for a player who averaged 2.5 points and 6.3 minutes per game two years ago at Gonzaga.

“When he struggled, I still believed in him,” Lloyd said. “I didn’t need for him to be instantly successful for me to reaffirm my belief in him. When he struggled, we continued to love him and work with him and then he continued to hang in there and I think it is a great story.”

Fellow big man Azuolas Tubelis has made a few strides of his own, adding strength and toughness to his athletic, fluid game. The 6-10 forward leads Arizona with 19.3 points per game while grabbing 8.0 rebounds.

Fiery point guard Kerr Kriisa has rounded into a reliable floor leader, averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 51% from the 3-point arc.

“I don’t pay attention to the antics because they don’t mean anything to me,” Lloyd said. “I know maybe that draws attention to him from other people but when it comes to just pure basketball, I mean he is doing a good job and I think he is really showing something.”

So is Courtney Ramey.

The Texas transfer has given the Wildcats a huge boost in his first season in Tucson, providing hounding defense, leadership and another scoring option. He’s averaging 16 points per game and has hit 10 of 16 from 3-point range so far this season.

Campbell transfer Cedric Henderson Jr. has provided an athletic lift off the bench and 7-foot Estonian Henri Veesaar has given Arizona solid minutes.

The mix of new and old has helped Arizona lead the nation with 97.5 points a game and rank second with 21.8 assists per game. The Wildcats climbed 10 spots in this week’s poll after wins over Cincinnati, No. 24 San Diego State and Creighton.

Arizona opens Pac-12 play Thursday at Utah.

“It was good to get the recognition, but we’re not satisfied,” Ramey said. “Our ultimate goal is to be No. 1 at the end of the season and be the final two teams playing, so I think the regular season matters but it’s not the ultimate goal for us.”

The Wildcats are certainly off to a good start.

Ballo, No. 14 Arizona beat No. 10 Creighton for Maui title

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LAHAINA, Hawaii – Oumar Ballo dominated inside with 30 points and 13 rebounds for No. 14 Arizona, which held off No. 10 Creighton 81-79 on Wednesday to win the Maui Invitational for the third time.

The combination of the unstoppable 7-foot, 260-pound Ballo and his speedy, talented supporting cast was just enough for the Wildcats (6-0) to remain undefeated. Kerr Kriisa added 13 points and nine assists, Azuolas Tubelis had 12 points and Courtney Ramey scored 10. Arizona scored its final points with 2:21 to play but managed to hold on.

“I’m super proud of these guys,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “These tournaments are hard. To play three games in three days against three really good teams with very distinct styles and to come out of it on top the way we did, it says a lot about this group.”

Ryan Nembhard scored 20 points for Creighton (6-1), which was trying to beat a ranked opponent for the third straight day. Ryan Kalkbrenner added 16 points, Trey Alexander scored 15 and Baylor Scheierman had 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Arizona appeared to be pulling away late, but the Bluejays kept hanging around.

Scheierman made a layup with 2:41 left to pull Creighton within 79-72 but Kriisa made a beautiful pass to Ballo for a dunk and an 81-72 lead with 2:21 left. He was fouled but missed the free throw.

Nembhard made a layup and Scheierman a 3-pointer to get Creighton within 81-77. Kalkbrenner made one of two free throws to cut the deficit to three. Ramey missed a 3-point attempt with 18 seconds left.

Creighton called timeout with 7.4 seconds left to set up a final play. Kalkbrenner didn’t have an open 3 and passed to Nembhard, who was fouled by Ramey with 2 seconds left. He made the first shot and intentionally missed the second, with Arizona rebounding to seal the win despite Creighton closing with a 12-2 run.

“I just kept looking at the score and the time and our timeouts. And I thought we had enough separation to kind of ride it out,” Lloyd said.

“But you’re just hoping for a miss. You hate to say that, you need to make `em miss. But one of those shots bounces off, you know, and we rebound it, you know, the game could have been over a little bit earlier. But they didn’t. They went in.

“I think we had one or two maybe poor decisions, but we’ll learn from that. We practice situations a lot. So a lot of the situations came up there and I felt comfortable not calling a timeout,” he added.

Ballo was strong from the start, tallying 16 points and nine rebounds in the first half to help the Wildcats to a 39-30 lead.

“We showed some grit in getting ourselves back in that,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It felt like in the second half, every time we would get it to three or four, they’d stretch it back to nine or 10 and we just couldn’t quite crack the seal, so to speak, to get ’em where they were really, really nervous.

“And then we executed some stuff down the stretch pretty well to give ourselves a chance, you know, on the free-throw line there to cut it to two, and then ran a play where we thought we could get a good look at a 3 there to tie it, and obviously didn’t work.”

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: The Bluejays reached the title game by beating No. 21 Texas Tech in the opening round and stopping No. 9 Arkansas in the semifinals.

Arizona: The Wildcats also won the Maui Invitational in 2000 and 2014. Lloyd was part of two Maui titles as a Gonzaga assistant in 2009 and 2018.

UP NEXT

Creighton plays at No. 4 Texas on Dec. 1 as part of the Big 12-Big East Battle.

Arizona opens Pac-12 play at Utah on Dec. 1.

No. 19 Arizona’s Ware out for the season with knee injury

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TUCSON, Ariz. – Arizona forward Lauren Ware will miss the 2022-23 season with a right knee injury, leaving the 19th-ranked Wildcats without a key frontcourt reserve.

Arizona announced Friday Ware suffered a second patellar dislocation during a workout in August and elected to have it surgically repaired.

Ware originally injured her knee during a game against North Dakota State last December and missed four games.

Arizona coach Adia Barnes said Ware was injured after banging knees with a teammate during a workout. She had been rehabilitating the injury in hopes of playing this season before meeting with the school medical staff and deciding on surgery.

The 6-foot-5 Ware averaged 5.7 points and 4.2 rebounds last season.