The University of Arizona had quite a rollercoaster ride full of emotions in Tempe. The Wildcats defeated the Sun Devils in the end by a score of 69-60. Courtney Ramey opened up the game finding the bottom of the net from distance courtesy of Kerr Kriisa, and it felt like the Wildcats were going to blow the door open ever since. Throughout the first half, the execution indicated a long day for the crowd of Desert Financial Arena.
The starters established a sense of urgency out of the gates, controlled the tempo, and attacked close-outs defensively on an ASU team that relies on the long ball heavily. The Wildcats shot under 50 percent from the field in the half but still went to the locker room up 17 points at the break.
The tides turned immediately to start the second half. At one point, the Sun Devils had a second-half scoring run of 18-4. Sun Devils head coach Bobby Hurley brought immense amounts of on-ball pressure, causing many live ball turnovers and jumping the passing lanes on the Wildcat guards.
Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd acknowledged the adversity his group was going through but refrained from calling timeouts.
“We lacked composure for a certain stretch, and I wanted our guys to figure it out,” Lloyd said. “There’s a reason you try to build a lead in the first half, especially on the road.”
Cedric Henderson was a key contributor off the bench as Pelle Larsson had difficulty on the offensive end early to start the half. The Sun Devils had cut the lead to three points, and Henderson’s activity helped flip the script.
“Cedric’s a great player, he added his aggressiveness,” Ramey said. “He had some key buckets, a floater, a layup, and his defense was tremendous.”
Henderson finished his afternoon with eight points, three rebounds, and a critical blocked shot on defense.
Arizona witnessed a poor 26 percent shooting clip in the last 20 minutes, however problematic stretches will arise in Pac-12 play away from McKale Center.
“It is about winning the game, not about who makes a run in the first half or a strong run in the second half,” Lloyd said. “It’s about finding a way to close out, and our guys did a good job of that.”
Down the stretch, Arizona went to their strong suit, utilizing Oumar Ballo and Azuolas Tubelis to iron out the victory. Ballo controlled the half, and was active on the glass while finishing the game with 12 points and 12 rebounds and converting at the line late to seal the win.
Next up, the Wildcats will return to McKale Center on Thursday, Jan. 5, and face the University of Washington.
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