2014 Pac-12 Tournament Schedule and Bracket: Semifinal Preview Colorado vs. Arizona
LAS VEGAS – Arizona played in Thursday's early quarterfinal and thus didn't know the Colorado Buffaloes, winners of a later game, would be their next opponent. Yet that didn't stop the Wildcats from sending a message.
The Wildcats dropped Utah 71-39 and held the Utes to 26 percent shooting for the game on Thursday.
The Buffs, who snuck past California 59-56, took note.
“[Arizona is] the best defensive team in our league; it's not even close,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said in the Buffs' postgame press conference when asked to look ahead.
Boyle also stressed that his team is approaching the game as an opportunity. In Arizona, ranked No. 4 in the country, Boyle sees a very good opponent but also a chance to improve his team's postseason standing. Colorado finally is putting together a run where it's playing with a purpose and focus he hasn't seen consistently this season.
[Related: Colorado grabs win over California]
“I told the guys in the locker room, 'All you can ask for in life is an opportunity,'” Boyle said. “We have an opportunity [Friday] to go play against one of the top teams in the country and prove ourselves.”
The Buffs rode a 17-point performance from guard Askia Booker past Cal, but CU also got balanced contributions from guard Xavier Talton (13 points) and big men Xavier Johnson (10 points, eight rebounds) and Josh Scott (11 points).
Arizona played arguably its best game of the year against the Utes. Sean Miller's team, ranked No. 4 nationally, attacked the Utes' best players, holding guard Delon Wright and forward Jordan Loveridge to 1-for-14 shooting. In fact, Utah's top three scorers – Wright, Loveridge and point guard Brandon Taylor – combined for seven points. That trio averaged 42 points per game coming into Thursday's loss.
[Related: No. 1 Arizona routs Utah]
“We're going to have to make shots,” Boyle said when asked what hope he has against the defensive effort that was on display.
They're also going to have to play defense, especially in the open floor. Arizona shot 53 percent against Utah, easily turning missed hoops into buckets early in the shot clock or momentum-building dunks.
"We get stops, get rebounds, get to push. Our athleticism is really at play," Arizona guard Nick Johnson said. "Finishing with dunks around the basket gets everyone going.”
Miller also acknowledged that his team, at full throttle, is a show on par with anything in this city.
“You know, when you have as many fans that have traveled the way we have to Vegas, you almost feel like it's your obligation to perform well and to advance for them for their efforts.”