Arizona 79 - Colorado 69
LAS VEGAS – The first game was controversial. The second ended with students storming the court. The rubber match between Arizona and Colorado at the MGM Garden Arena on Thursday didn't lack for drama, either. Arizona prevailed 79-69 and advanced to the Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament semifinal. But Colorado did not go down without a fight.
"We're thrilled with the win. We beat an excellent basketball team," Wildcats coach Sean Miller said. "I couldn't be more proud of our team, because we need to play extremely hard to beat a team like Colorado. " Both teams traded blows early and often. Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie threw down a slam dunk to open scoring and it was game on from that point. Both squads combined to shoot 9-of-13 to open the contest despite tough defense being an early hallmark. Arizona finished with 15 points off turnovers in the first half alone.
A 7-0 run capped by a Dinwiddie three in transition cut the Wildcats' lead to seven halfway through the second half. Sean Miller called a 30-second timeout and Arizona answered with five straight to prompt a loud 'U-of-A' chant from a raucous crowd of 12, 915 - an arena record for basketball. Defending tournament champion Colorado made several runs and cut the lead to six three times prior to the under-four timeout. But each flurry was answered with an Arizona counterpunch.
"Obviously we’re disappointed with the result," Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle said. "I thought our guys responded to some adversity but just couldn't get over the hump." Arizona guard Mark Lyons had a below average effort from the field, shooting 4-of-13 for 14 points, but handled the point well with just two turnovers. It was a balanced scoring effort by the Wildcats with seven players adding at least five points to the final score. "Arizona, when you look at their lineup, has the most quality depth of anybody in our league," Boyle said. "They were dialed in tonight, you could tell." Defending tournament champion Colorado made several runs and cut the lead to six three times prior to the under-four timeout. But each flurry was answered with an Arizona counterpunch. Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year André Roberson had another double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. He cut the lead to two with a pair of free throws as the clock wound down to under a minute, but Arizona’s Nick Johnson powered through two defenders for a layup to keep it a two-possession game.
[Related video: Arizona head coach Sean Miller discusses advancing to the semifinals]
The Wildcats then put the game away from the line. Johnson provided one last highlight, blocking a late Colorado three-point attempt out of bounds. Colorado will head home to Boulder to await a likely berth in the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats move on to face UCLA at 6 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks. UCLA edged Arizona in both regular-season meetings. "Any time a team beats you twice, you really want to get that one win," Miller said of Friday's matchup. “I know this: Everybody on our side of the fence is eager and knows that it’s going to be a really, really hard fought game.” Game Photos (Eric Evans Photography): [gallery ids="1511,1515,1559,1516,1508,1510,1557,1513,1512,1509,1556,1558,1563,1568,1565,1566,1567,1572"]