Oumar Ballo, No. 14 Arizona power past No. 10 Creighton for Maui Invitational title

Nov 23, 2022, 5:10 PM | Updated: 7:54 pm
Arizona center Oumar Ballo (11) reacts with guard Cedric Henderson Jr., after he scored against San...

Arizona center Oumar Ballo (11) reacts with guard Cedric Henderson Jr., after he scored against San Diego State during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

(AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Oumar Ballo turned in a career-high 30 points to propel the No. 14 Arizona Wildcats to the Maui Invitational championship over No. 10 Creighton on Wednesday, 81-79.

Arizona (6-0) beat No. 17 San Diego State 87-70 on Tuesday night in the semifinals to make the title game, where Ballo got to work early and often.

The big man scored 16 points in the first half on eight shots and nearly had a double-double before halftime with nine rebounds. His 13 boards in the game were also a college best.

Arizona went into the break leading 39-30.

The Blue Jays (6-1) cut the deficit to 47-43 with 15:04 left in the game, but the Wildcats won the next seven minutes 19-11 to create some breathing room.

Creighton kept coming, though.

Ballo finished a powerful dunk off a terrific Kerr Kriisa pass around two defenders with 2:21 remaining in the game to give Arizona an 81-72 lead and end a 5-0 Blue Jays run, but Creighton scored the next seven points.

An intentionally missed free throw by Creighton’s Ryan Nembhard down 81-79 with two seconds remaining was rebounded by Azuolas Tubelis to ice the win.

“I’m super proud of these guys,” Arizona head 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.”

The Wildcats out-shot Creighton 53%-46%, scoring 48 points in the paint.

Kriisa added 13 points and nine assists, Tubelis had 12 points and Courtney Ramey scored 10.

Nembhard scored 20 points for Creighton, which was trying to beat a ranked opponent for the third straight day.

Arizona is now three-time winners of the Maui Invitational, last doing so in 2014.

Lloyd was part of two Maui titles as a Gonzaga assistant in 2009 and 2018.

Arizona’s next matchup will be in-conference at Utah on Dec. 1.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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