2017 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament

Presented by New York Life
Event: March 8-11
T-Mobile Arena | Las Vegas, NV

2017 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament: Arizona gets arena rocking in big semifinal win over UCLA

LAS VEGAS – Tucson might be 400-plus miles from Sin City, but you wouldn’t have known it with the way sold-out T-Mobile Arena was rocking for the second semifinal of the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament. Fans cheering for the Arizona Wildcats had plenty to hoot and holler about on Friday night.

Facing the No. 3 seed and No. 3 team in the nation, UCLA, the Wildcats exacted revenge for a home loss to the Bruins in February with a decisive 86-75 victory. With the win, the No. 2-seeded Wildcats are set to face top seed Oregon on Saturday at 8 p.m. PT / 9 p.m. MT in the Pac-12 Tournament title game.

“It’s not easy to come back on back-to-back days here in the Pac-12 Tournament and play against a team like UCLA with their high-powered offense and the season they’ve had,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “For us to come out of here with a win, we’re really excited. Never been prouder of a group of kids.”

No kid was more impressive on Friday night than Finnish freshman phenom Lauri Markkanen. The 7-footer wowed the crowd all night with his 3-pointers and slam dunks, racking up 29 points, just one shy of his career high. It’s safe to say Markkanen has received a warm welcome in his first season with the program.

“I don’t think we’ve had a road game this season where we don’t have U of A fans,” Markkanen said. “That’s an amazing feeling.”

At that point during the postgame press conference, Miller couldn’t help but reflect on those recruiting trips to Finland and chime in on the conversation.

“He thought I was lying to him when I described that, when I flew over there to see him,” Miller said. “He knows how it’s true, right?”

Arizona and UCLA traded baskets for most of the first half, as it was tied on six occasions and featured five lead changes. Allonzo Trier led the Arizona attack early, scoring 13 of his 20 points before the break, as the Wildcats took a 41-35 lead into the locker room.

When the teams returned for the second half, Markkanen hit a jumper just 12 seconds into the period, a harbinger of things to come. The Wildcats had their red-clad fans going, well, wild, when they went on a run to extend their lead to 14 with Markkanen’s 3-pointer at the 15:02 mark. From there, the Bruins never got within nine points of the lead.

Isaac Hamilton led the Bruins in scoring once again with his 20 points, while Lonzo Ball had an off night (eight points on 2-of-7 shooting) and TJ Leaf fouled out after posting 15 points and eight rebounds.

“The good part about this is that we will get a couple days off before we get back at it,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “We are disappointed that we lost but Arizona is a very good team.”

As a team, the Wildcats shot 50 percent while holding the nation’s top scoring offense to 40.7 percent shooting and more than 15 points below their game average. Kadeem Allen (12 points) and Dusan Ristic (10 points) also notched double-digit points for Arizona, which will play in its third Pac-12 Tournament title game in four years.

Miller made a point to single out Allen for his high-energy performance, as he was a factor on both ends of the floor. The Pac-12 Coach of the Year also called a controversial timeout with 1 second left while Allen was dribbling the ball in front of Arizona’s bench, saying he wanted to recognize the senior’s strong effort.

But Miller and UCLA coach Steve Alford noted how the Bruins took a late timeout with a five-point lead during their win in Tucson on Feb. 25.

“When UCLA played us at McKale, I thought they did a great job,” Miller told Pac-12 Networks' Ashley Adamson after the game, “they called a timeout with one second left, just to make sure they had poise. I felt like I wanted to make sure our guys had poise with one second left in this game.”

Now the stage is set for what figures to be an epic Pac-12 Tournament championship between the No. 7 Wildcats and the No. 5 Ducks.

“Look, anyone who plays Oregon has their hands full,” Miller said. “I'm really excited for the Pac-12. We have a brand-new arena, world class, a sellout, national television, and you have two teams that are vying for whatever seed we're vying for. I think it speaks volumes for the Pac-12 Conference.”

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