Las Vegas, NV – Session 3 of the 2014 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament was a sellout, largely as a result of about 5,000 Arizona fans. They were not disappointed as the Wildcats ran away from No. 8-seed Utah (21-11) in their 71-39 quarterfinal victory. Nick Johnson led three Arizona players in double-figures with 14 points.
Arizona went out to a 22-6 lead, extending the lead to 34-13 at the half. Arizona, with the best defense in the Pac-12, held the Utes to 5-of-19 first-half shooting while out-rebounding them 20-7. Arizona had as many offensive rebounds (7) as Utah’s rebounding total. Nick Johnson led the Wildcats in the first half with 12 points on 3-of-4 shooting (2-of-3 3PT). Arizona shot 50 percent in the half compared to the Utes 26.3 percent.
The second half was more of the same as Arizona extended their lead to 34 points (51-17) at the under 12 minute media timeout and coasted to the victory. T.J. McConnell was impressive with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, four rebounds and four assists. Aaron Gordon added 11 points and seven rebounds. No Utah player scored in double-figures while leading scorer Jordan Loveridge was held to two free throws while shooting 0-of-6 from the field. Arizona shot an efficient 53 percent from the field, held Utah to 25.5 percent shooting and had a +15 rebounding edge.
The second game featured a 19-12 California team which likely needed a win against 22-10 Colorado to be seriously considered for an NCAA tournament bid. It wasn’t to be as Colorado escaped with a 59-56 win after Justin Cobbs missed a game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer. Askia Booker led Colorado with 17 points while Cobbs tallied 21 for Cal.
Cal didn’t look good in the first half, shooting 38.5 percent overall and only 2-of-12 from long distance. They were out-rebounded by a 21-12 margin. Richard Solomon had nine rebounds, the rest of the Cal team had three. Colorado wasn’t that much more efficient on offense, but they did hit four three-pointers, which combined with their rebounding edge helped them take a 31-22 lead into halftime. Booker had a nice first half for the Buffaloes, scoring nine points on 4-of-9 shooting with three assists and no turnovers.
Ricky Kreklow tried to get Cal back into the game, hitting two quick three-pointers to get the Golden Bears within three points. However the Buffaloes. led by Booker, raised the lead to ten (47-37) with 11 minutes remaining. Tyrone Wallace (13 points) helped narrow the lead to three (49-46) with two transition baskets and one free throw. Cobbs then brought Cal within one on a steal and dunk. After Xavier Talton (13 points) and Cobbs traded threes, Josh Scott scored on a hook shot to give Colorado a 54-51 lead.
Cal had a chance to take the lead with 1:40 left, but Cobbs missed a three-pointer. Colorado maintained a 56-54 lead with Cal having a chance to tie or win with 23 seconds left after a Colorado shot clock violation. Cobbs misfired on a 16-foot jumper with the Buffaloes gaining possession. Booker drained two foul shots with 12.1 seconds remaining to put the margin at four. Cobbs then went coast-to-coast with no resistance with 7.3 seconds left. Backup point guard Eli Stalzer was then fouled. Stalzer, who only took 16 free throws all year, missed the second of two, giving Cal one last chance but Cobbs came up short.
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