Pac-12 Tournament: Arizona avenges UCLA, advances to finals
LAS VEGAS -- Two down, one to go.
Arizona forward Brandon Ashley scored a career-high 24 points, guard T.J. McConnell added a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists and the Arizona Wildcats used a frenetic second-half rally to upend UCLA, 70-64, in the 2015 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament semifinals Friday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The win advances top-seed Arizona to face the winner of Utah-Oregon on Saturday in the finals (8 p.m. PT, ESPN).
It also helped the Wildcats avenge losses to UCLA in last year's Pac-12 tournament championship, and in the semifinals in 2013.
Arizona trailed 47-40 with more than 12 minutes remaining before ripping off a 15-0 run, sending the pro-Wildcats crowd into an audio riot as "U of A!" chants echoed around the arena.
It was the first time the Wildcats were the aggressor since the opening minutes, when they jumped to an 8-0 lead with the help of three's from McConnell and Stanley Johnson. After extending it to 11-2, Arizona then went without scoring for about six minutes before Ashley ended it with a lay-up about midway through the first half.
During that span, forward Tony Parker and wing Isaac Hamilton both picked up three fouls and combined to play just 15 minutes, but UCLA leaned on its zone defense to limit the Wildcats to 36 percent shooting.
The Bruins trailed 27-24 when Bryce Alford stole an inbounds pass, pulled up in transition and knocked down a three-pointer with less than five seconds before the half. The sophomore guard then untucked his jersey and stomped to the locker room after UCLA closed with a 5-0 burst.
When UCLA opened the second half with a 6-0 spurt to take a 33-27 lead and forward Kaleb Tarczewski picked up his fourth foul with 16:53 remaining, the Bruins were poised to spring their biggest win of the season, perhaps of Alford's UCLA coaching tenure.
But McConnell knocked in two free throws with 18 seconds left to give the Wildcats a 68-64 lead. When forward Kevon Looney's ensuing three appeared to be partially blocked and came up well short, Arizona had all but secured the win.