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Half-court buzzer beater saves day, and perhaps ASU's season, in 89-88 win over Arizona

Desmond Cambridge Jr., who had three seconds and about 50 feet between him and a Sun Devil victory, took one dribble and two steps before making the game-winning basket

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ASU fifth-year guard Desmond Cambridge Jr. (4) drives to the basket for a layup against Oregon State at Desert Financial Arena on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. ASU won 68-57. 

With three seconds remaining in a game that had already provided 39 minutes and 57 seconds of electric basketball, Arizona's star redshirt junior center Oumar Ballo hit a free throw to give Arizona an 88-86 lead on cross-state rival ASU. 

With no timeouts left for ASU, sophomore forward Jamiya Neal inbounded the ball to fifth-year guard Desmond Cambridge Jr., who had three seconds, three points and about 50 feet between him and an ASU victory. Then Cambridge Jr. did the unthinkable.

In what will surely become one of the most celebrated moments in the history of ASU men's basketball, Cambridge Jr. took one dribble, two steps and a prayer-laced heave from just beyond half court. 

The shot did not touch the rim, but went right through the net, giving ASU an 89-88 victory over seventh-ranked Arizona. It sent a once-rowdy, Wildcat-heavy crowd into stunned silence, and in the process, may have saved ASU's season.

"If I'm being completely honest, I make those shots all the time," said Cambridge Jr. after the game. "But, that shot, I did not think it was going in. …When it went in, I could only scream. It still doesn't make sense to me."

READ MORE: If ASU wants to make the NCAA Tournament, 'we gotta start winning games now'

Because of Cambridge Jr.'s shot, the team now has a signature win to present to the NCAA Tournament committee in hopes of an at-large bid to the Big Dance. Because of Cambridge Jr.'s shot, ASU men's basketball head coach Bobby Hurley may have saved his job β€” impending contract extension negotiation looming. And because of Cambridge Jr.'s shot, ASU earned its first win over Arizona since Jan. 25, 2020 and the team's first win in Tucson since 2019.

But the lead-up to Cambridge Jr.'s "Miracle at McKale" was nearly as absurd as the shot itself.

While normally reliant on energetic defense to compete in big games, ASU kept pace with Arizona in the first half via a balanced scoring performance. All nine players who played for ASU in the first half scored for the Sun Devils, combinig for 20-34 (59%) from the field and 5-12 from the 3-point range (42%).

Arizona countered ASU's balanced scoring attack with an efficient offensive performance of its own, shooting 16-27 (60%) from the field and 6-12 from the 3-point range (50%). 

The game's first buzzer beater came from Arizona fifth-year guard Cedric Henderson Jr., who hit a well-defended step-back 3-pointer at the first half buzzer to cut ASU's halftime lead to 46-45.

ASU's nine first half fouls gave Arizona chances to earn free points but the Wildcats failed to take advantage, shooting just 7-14 from the free-throw line. 

But it was the second half where fouls became an issue for the Sun Devils.

Senior centers Warren Washington and Alonzo Gaffney as well as sophomore guard Frankie Collins each began the second half with two fouls, and within four minutes of the start of the half, Collins and Washington had each picked up a third.

ASU's foul trouble coincided with Arizona maintaining its sharpshooting from the three, and with six and a half minutes remaining, Arizona took a 78-68 lead and it looked as though the Wildcats were ready to pull away. That's when Cambridge Jr. came alive.

He and junior guard DJ Horne scored 15 of ASU's final 21 points and went a combined 4-6 from the three in a 21-10 ASU run to close the game. 

Cambridge Jr. finished the game with 19 points, four assists and four rebounds. Horne provided 18 points and seven assists.

Washington, who finished the game with 16 points on 7-8 shooting, played the final five minutes with four fouls. His stout defense on Arizona's frontcourt tandem of junior forward Azuolas Tubelis and Ballo was the catalyst of ASU's late run, and his layup to give ASU an 86-85 lead with just over a minute left making it ASU's final basket before Cambridge Jr.'s.

Cambridge Jr.'s brother, senior guard Devan Cambridge, did not have Washington's luck.

With two minutes remaining, Cambridge, who had nine points, five rebounds and a litany of key hustle plays that will not be seen on the statsheet, picked up his fifth foul and was disqualified from the game.

Hurley said the team knew coming into the contest that foul trouble would be a concern.

"I said, I don't know who it's going to be, but a couple of you guys are going to be in foul trouble, and we've got to deal with it," Hurley said about the team's conversations before the game. 

With Cambridge out, the job of guarding Arizona standout forward Tubelis fell to Neal, who provided 12 points and five assists off the bench and closed the game for ASU. 

The game seemed nearly over when, after Hurley called ASU's final timeout down 87-86 with 24 seconds left, Horne missed a side-step 3-pointer, which led to Ballo being fouled on the rebound. 

Ballo missed his first free throw, but made his second and the rest is history. 

"I don't know what the odds are on that shot going in, but I think we're probably, about 98 times out of 100, we're sitting here talking about a different thing," said Arizona's head coach Tommy Lloyd in his press conference following the game. "But I mean good for the kid, it was a hell of a shot."

No ASU fan will ever forget the final three seconds of this game, but nobody will reflect on that moment with more joy than Cambridge Jr. himself: "When I go and replay that moment, that's probably going to be the best moment of my life."

ASU sits at 20-9 overall and 11-7 in the Pac-12, good for fourth place in the conference.

The Sun Devils finish the regular season next week in Los Angeles with road contests against the Pac-12 leading UCLA Bruins on March 2 and the USC Trojans on March 4. 

Edited by Piper Hansen.

Reach the reporter at and follow @_alexwakefield on Twitter. 

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