Cats Beat Buffs, Punch Ticket to Pac-12 Title Game
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Azoulas Tubelis had 20 points and 11 rebounds, Justin Kier added 13 points and No. 2 Arizona pulled away late to beat Colorado 82-72 Friday night in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals.
Arizona played without point guard Kerr Kriisa, who sprained his right ankle in the closing seconds of an 84-80 win over Stanford in the quarterfinals.
The top-seeded Wildcats (30-3) had a good offensive flow in the first half with Kier running the show, but weren't nearly as efficient through most of the second.
Arizona gradually stretched the in the closing minutes and used a 7-0 run to go up 78-65 with just over a minute left. The Wildcats will play the winner between No. 13 UCLA and No. 21 Southern California in the title game Saturday night.
No. 4 seed Colorado set a Pac-12 record with 16 3-pointers, but went 8 for 30 on 2-pointers to miss out on a chance to play in consecutive Pac-12 title games. The Buffaloes went on a 12-2 run to erase a nine-point halftime deficit, but went into an offensive funk as Arizona started to stretch the lead.
Jabari Walker led Colorado with 19 points, but had just two in the second half.
The Wildcats and Buffaloes split the regular-season series, each winning blowouts at home with dominating second halves.
The third meeting was also close at halftime — and an offensive Vegas show.
Colorado hit seven of its first nine shots to go up eight early, went through a brief funk and went 9 of 15 from 3 in the first half. Walker hit all five of his 3-pointers and had 17 points.
The Wildcats had no drop in efficiency with Kriisa in a walking boot, working its inside-out game to near perfection while hitting 17 of 28 shots.
Tubelis was their go-to player, scoring 18 points, mostly in the post and on short jumpers. He jumped a passing lane for a steal and finished off a three-point play with 3 seconds left to give Arizona a 47-38 halftime lead.
Colorado was the Pac-12's best 3-point shooting team during the regular season and upped its pace in the Pac-12 semifinals. The Buffaloes just weren't good enough inside the arc and now have to hope their resume is good enough to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
Arizona had some offensive issues in the second half after lighting it up in the first, but locked down Colorado down the stretch to earn its first trip to the Pac-12 title game since 2018.
Colorado: Could have some anxious moments on Selection Sunday as it awaits its postseason fate.
Arizona: Moves on to face USC or UCLA in the championship game Saturday.
Arizona vs. Colorado Notes
- After Colorado opened the game with 5-of-5 shooting from the field, the Arizona defense allowed the Buffs to only connect on nine of their next 27 field goal attempts in to end the half.
- Azoulas Tubelis finished the half with 18 points, marking his highest scoring half of his career. His previous career best was 17 in the first half against Sacramento State earlier this season.
- Tubelis went on the finish the game with the seventh double-double of his career with 20 points and 11 rebounds. It was also the second 20 and 10 game of the sophomore's career.
- All five of Arizona's starters scored in double figures in the win over Colorado, accounting for 63 of the team's 82 points (76.8 percent).
- It also marked the 13th time this season that Arizona has had five double-digit scorers in the same game.
- Friday night saw the Wildcats shoot 24 of 25 from the free throw line, including a make on all 15 attempts in the second half. Arizona's 96.0 free throw percentage in the victory over the Buffaloes matched the program's highest free throw percentage mark in a Pac-10/12 tournament game. The Cats also shot 96.0 percent versus Washington in the 2004 Pac-10 Tournament.
- With Friday's win over CU, Arizona has avenged a loss in Boulder by defeating the Buffs in the conference tournament for a fifth time since Colorado joined the Pac-12 Conference.
- Dalen Terry's 12 points in the semifinal win over CU was the sophomore's 12th double-digit scoring game of the season.
- Friday's win advanced Arizona's record to 16-4 in the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas and 11-1 in T-Mobile Arena.
- With conference tournament wins over Stanford and Colorado, Tommy Lloyd became the ninth first-year head coach in NCAA history to win 30 games in his maiden season.
- Saturday's championship game will mark Arizona's 12th trip to the conference's title tilt
- The Wildcats have reached the championship game in each of its last runs as the conference's top seed.
- Arizona has won its last eight consecutive games as the top-seeded team in the Pac-12 Tournament.
- With a record of 30-3 after the win over Colorado, Arizona becomes the conference's first team to 30 wins since the 2016-17 season.
- Arizona is 25-0 in the 2021-22 season when scoring 80 or more points in a game.