TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona State’s final loss in the rivalry looked imminent even after a late rally, with a desperate layup all that was left.
Desmond Cambridge Jr. redeemed it, making a McKale miracle to keep the Sun Devils’ NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
The Cambridge junior hit a 60-foot shot at the buzzer and Arizona State beat No. 7 Arizona 89-88 on Saturday.
“I didn’t think that shot was going in,” said Cambridge, who finished with 19 points. “I just wanted to have a nice miss and have everyone in the crowd go, ‘ouch!’ Once it came in, I literally could only scream because I couldn’t understand 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 went ahead by one.
The Sun Devils (20-9, 11-7) went up 86-85 on Warren Washington’s layup with just over a minute remaining, but Pell Larson put Arizona back on a layup with 29 seconds left.
Arizona State’s DJ Horne missed a jumper with four seconds left and the Sun Devils had one last shot after Oumar Ballo hit 1 of 2 free throws.
Catching the ball with 2.4 seconds left, Cambridge stunned the fans at the McKale Center by launching a shot beyond half court which sent his teammates tumbling to 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 Azoulas Tubelis added 17.
In the first meeting, Arizona State made a big effort to open the second half, but Lloyd didn’t call a timeout, letting his team play through adversity. The Wildcats responded with a run of their own for a 69-60 victory on a night where neither team shot better than 37 percent.
The rematch was all about the attack.
The Sun Devils hit as many 3-pointers in the first eight minutes as they did in the entire first game and shot 20-for-34 from the floor to take a 46-45 lead.
The Wildcats hit 16 of 27 shots, including Henderson’s buzzer-beating 3, but went 7 of 14 on free throws.
Good shot fell just short to start the second half.
Arizona went on a short run to build a six-point lead, and the Sun Devils started making questionable shots, allowing the Wildcats to pull within 78-68.
Even after turning up the defensive pressure to get back into it, Arizona State looked 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 floor this late in the season.” Arizona. State coach Bobby Hurley said.
State of Arizona: The Sun Devils needed some sort of boost to their NCAA Tournament chances. One of the most impressive finishes in the rivalry’s history will certainly help.
Arizona: The Wildcats were in control before going cold from the field at the wrong time. Their seniors will never forget how their last home game ended after Cambridge’s stunner.