A berth in the Pac-12 tournament championship game will be on the line Friday night when rivals Arizona State and No. 8-ranked Arizona meet in the semifinals in Las Vegas.
Arizona State (22-11) jumped ahead of Southern California moments into Thursday’s quarterfinal, building an 8-0 lead and never relinquishing the advantage.
Desmond Cambridge Jr. scored 27 points and made 6 of 12 shots from 3-point range in the win, while DJ Horne added 16 points in the 77-72 victory — sixth-seeded Arizona State’s first in three tries against USC this season.
“I knew I had to come ready to play today,” Cambridge said in the post-game news conference. “[Wednesday vs. Oregon State] I didn’t play well, but my teammates, they did. They lift me up, and I take that personally. My teammates put a lot of trust in me, so I feel like I need to give that back to them.”
Second-seeded Arizona (26-6) pulled away down the stretch to avenge a regular-season loss with its 95-84 defeat of Stanford on Thursday. The Cardinal stunned the Wildcats on Feb. 11, 88-79, thanks in part to 10-of-18 3-point shooting.
Stanford was 14 of 19 from 3-point range on Thursday, but Arizona responded with a 54-22 advantage for points in the paint. Three Wildcats scored 20-plus points, led by Oumar Ballo’s 24.
Cedric Henderson Jr. added 23 points, Azuolas Tubelis scored 20 and Courtney Ramey contributed 15 for Arizona.
The Wildcats played the earlier quarterfinal and advanced before knowing if they would play a USC team they swept in the regular season, or Arizona State. Arizona and Arizona State split the regular-season series in a pair of hotly contested games.
The Sun Devils won the second meeting, 89-88 on Feb. 25 at Arizona, on Cambridge’s 60-foot desperation heave at the buzzer.
Despite the opportunity to score a measure of payback, Henderson told the Pac-12 Network in his post-game interview that the Wildcats didn’t care who they played in the semifinals.
“We’re here to win, we’re here to play, and that’s what we do,” he said.
Henderson was one of five Wildcats to score in double figures in that loss to Arizona State, posting 19 points. Tubelis scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds while Pelle Larsson finished with 16 points off the bench, but the Sun Devils limited Ballo to seven points and three rebounds.
Arizona State went at Ballo to get the Wildcats’ big man in foul trouble. He played only 18 minutes in the Sun Devils’ win and had four personal fouls.
Cambridge Jr.’s 19 points and Horne’s 18 set the pace for Arizona State in their most recent meeting. The duo is pacing the Sun Devils for the season with averages of 13.4 and 12.2 points per game, respectively.
At 19.9 points and 9.1 rebounds, Arizona’s Tubelis leads the Pac-12 in both scoring and rebounding. Five Wildcats average double-figure scoring on the season, with Ballo at 14.3 points per game, Ramey at 10.9, Kerr Kriisa at 10.4 and Larrson at 10.1.
However, Kriisa came out of Arizona’s win against Stanford clutching his right shoulder. He apparently sustained an injury in the late first half and was limited in the second half. He attempted a free throw with his non-shooting left hand. The team hadn’t updated his status for Friday night as of early in the morning.
“Try to stay positive. No time for negative,” Kriisa told the Arizona Daily Star following the game. “It’s that time of year.”
–Field Level Media