ANAHEIM, Calif. – Nick Johnson put an awful first half behind him and came up large for Arizona in the closing 2:forty five.
The Pac-12 player of the year scored all of his 15 factors over that span after lacking his first 10 photographs and helped Arizona maintain off San Diego State 70-sixty four on Thursday night time to reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA match.
"After I hit one shot, it simply began to feel a little bit bit better," he mentioned. "I just saved on hitting shots."
Largely, Johnson hit free throws, making all 10 of his attempts to go together with a discipline goal and a three-pointer after the Aztecs shut him down for the first 37 minutes.
"He simply exploded within the second half," stated San Diego State's Dwayne Polee II, who guarded Johnson. "I can not say that we didn't play onerous protection, however he just made a variety of good pictures."
Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 15 points each for the highest-seeded Wildcats (33-4), who will try to win a West Regional last for the primary time in Anaheim. They're 0-3 at Honda Heart going into Saturday's game towards second-seeded Wisconsin (29-7).
Arizona coach Sean Miller joined brother Archie in the ultimate eight. The younger Miller coached Dayton to an 82-72 victory over Stanford of the Pac-12 in the South Regional semifinals.
"We watched the sport in our locker room," Sean Miller stated. "The truth that two of us are within the Elite Eight is a really unique situation, but we'll see."
Xavier Thames scored 25 factors and Polee added thirteen points for the Aztecs (31-5). Those two tried to bail out SDSU within the final minute, every hitting 3-pointers before Thames' basket minimize the deficit to 65-61 with 38 seconds left.
The drama wasn't over but in a game that includes tenacious defense and rabid depth by both groups.
SDSU acquired known as for a 10-second violation, and the Wildcats regained the ball. Johnson obtained fouled and made each for a 67-61 lead with 26 seconds to go. Thames obtained fouled on a 3-level try, and he sank all three pictures to depart SDSU trailing 67-64.
The Aztecs had Johnson trapped close to their bench, however he handed out of the double-team and Gabe York bought fouled at the other end. He missed the first and made the second, maintaining Arizona forward 68-64. Thames missed, and Johnson once more went to the road, where he ended the scoring with two free throws.
San Diego State led by eight factors early within the second half after leading by that many simply earlier than halftime. The Aztecs managed the boards 37-29, with three of them often battling without delay on the defensive finish. Josh Davis had 14 rebounds for SDSU.
The Aztecs were making an attempt to reach the final eight for the primary time at school history below sixty nine-year-outdated coach Steve Fisher.
"One in every of as of late, we will get to a Closing 4," Fisher mentioned.
Johnson's 2-of-12 taking pictures wasn't the Wildcats' only drawback. Kaleb Tarczewski returned late within the sport with four fouls, and Hollis-Jefferson fouled out with four:forty two to play.
However Johnson made his first basket a couple of minutes later and carried the Wildcats across the end line after they trailed a lot of the second half.
"It is wonderful for a kid to be able to try this after not making shots for about 25, 30 straight minutes," Miller mentioned.
T.J. McConnell's layup gave Arizona its first lead, 50-49, of the second half after the Wildcats got within one 3 times. SDSU answered with baskets the primary two occasions however couldn't cease McConnell, who finished with 11 factors.
The Wildcats started getting a number of the offensive rebounds that eluded them a lot of the sport, and Tarczewski scored after his teammates grabbed two on the identical possession to keep Arizona ahead 54-51.
Polee's protection helped maintain Johnson scoreless within the first half, when he went zero-for-7 and missed all three of his 3-point makes an attempt. He lastly hit a jumper at the buzzer, however typical of Arizona's early luck, it was dominated no good. Tarczewski picked up his third foul with 5:13 to go, leaving the Wildcats without their 7-footer to guard the basket.
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