The Arizona Wildcats blew out the Colorado Buffaloes last night in Las Vegas 63-43 in the second semi-final game of the evening. Arizona will now advance to the Pac 12 Championship game against UCLA at the MGM this afternoon.
The Bruins advanced to the final game by blasting Stanford in the opening semi-final 84-59. Despite their losses Colorado and Stanford look to be safe bets to make it in the NCAA tournament. The teams and pairings for the tournament will be announced tomorrow.
The Buffs were down just three at halftime, 27-24, but any thoughts that Colorado had of staying with Arizona quickly vanished in the second half. Arizona turned up the defense and smothered Colorado to just 5 of 22 shooting in the in the second frame while the Wildcats made 60 percent of their shots. That formula spelled the end for the Buffs.
“In the second half, we were sharper,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said after the game in an obvious understatement.
Guard Nick Johnson led a balanced Arizona scoring attack with 16 points as the Wildcats raised their record to 30-3. Colorado fell to 23-11 and was led by Askia Booker with 12 points.
Arizona now turns their attention to first-year coach Steve Alford’s UCLA squad that avenged a nine-point defeat in late February to Stanford. The win was the second straight blowout for the Bruins who took an early 12 point lead and never looked back.
The Cardinal was no contest for UCLA as they could not match up athletically with the Bruins who raised their record to 25-8. UCLA was led in scoring by Norman Powell with 22 points and Travis Wear added 16 for the Bruins. Kyle Anderson also chipped in 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for UCLA.
“We have an opportunity to win a Pac-12 Championship,” Alford said after the game. “Now that’s exciting in your first year. We’re 25 wins. These guys have done a lot of good things. But as we’ve talked about, it’s March. UCLA, it’s all about March.”
Stanford will finish the season with a record of 21-12. The Cardinal was led by forward Dwight Powell with 16 points and four rebounds.
The championship game of the Pac 12 tournament will feature the contrasting styles of Arizona’s smothering defense and UCLA’s potent offense. The Wildcats won the Pac 12 regular season championship with a conference record of 15-3 while UCLA took second place with a 12-6 record. Tip off is set for 3 pm in Las Vegas.
This will be just the second meeting of the year for the perennial conference rivals. The Wildcats won a close game at Pauley Pavillion in Los Angeles in early January 79-75. Both teams are securely in the field of 68 that comes out tomorrow but the Wildcats, currently ranked No. 4 in the country, would like to preserve that ranking and earn one of the four No. 1 seeds in the tournament.
To do so Arizona needs a victory today in the Pac 12 championship that features a match up with rival UCLA. If they should fall to the Bruins they risk losing a top seed to Louisville or Duke, both of whom are right on the heels of the Wildcats.
By Mick Varner