Pac-12 Conference Tournament – Quarterfinals
(1) UCLA 80 (9) Arizona State 75
UCLA advances to play (4) Arizona in the semifinals on March 15
The Arizona State Sun Devils knew that they had to win the Pac-12 Tournament to make the NCAA tournament, and with just under 17 minutes left in regulation on Thursday afternoon in Las Vegas, head coach Herb Sendek’s team was almost halfway home. A winner in the first round on Wednesday over Stanford, Arizona State grabbed a 53-38 lead over the top-seeded UCLA Bruins in the quarterfinals. A strong finish to the second half against the regular season Pac-12 champion would have enabled the Sun Devils to advance to the semifinals, two wins away from an unexpected automatic bid. Arizona State was so close to an upset that it could taste the sensation of advancing in the bracket as a No. 9 seed.
That dream, as romantic as it was, did not survive the day.
UCLA used a quick 8-0 run to shave that 15-point deficit to just seven. The Bruins contained Arizona State star Jahii Carson and made ASU’s role players hit shots in the final minutes. Jonathan Gilling, who was 5 of 11 from three-point range, missed multiple wide-open treys in the final minutes. Meanwhile, UCLA’s Travis Wear hit a go-ahead jump shot with 1:02 left and then an equally important jumper with 11 seconds left, as UCLA took a 78-75 lead into the final moments of this riveting affair. Gilling got one more high-quality look at a three, this one to tie, but he missed, and UCLA added two foul shots to move on to the semifinals against Arizona, sending Arizona State to the NIT.
Carson scored 21 for Arizona State, 13 less than what he produced in the Devils’ win over Stanford on Wednesday. Wear scored 15 for UCLA, and teammate Larry Drew stepped up big with 20.
(4) Arizona 79 (5) Colorado 69
Arizona advances to play (1) UCLA in the semifinals on March 15
The Colorado Buffaloes had beaten the Arizona Wildcats earlier this season, and in the other matchup between the two schools, Colorado lost only in the most technical sense. On Thursday at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, Arizona finally scored a victory over Colorado that was free of controversy and taint.
You might recall that Arizona defeated Colorado in overtime on Jan. 3, but only because a game-winning basket by Colorado’s Sabatino Chen was incorrectly disallowed by the officials, who somehow reviewed the play and concluded that Chen’s release did not beat the buzzer, when in fact it did. Colorado deserved a victory, but had the result taken from its hands by the arbiters. Essentially, Colorado had beaten Arizona twice this season, even though the scoreboard and the record books registered a split between the teams. Arizona knew that it had to play at a much higher level in order to beat Colorado in an honest fashion.
That’s exactly what the Wildcats proceeded to do. Arizona played one of its better games of the season, committing only 10 turnovers and making 14 of 16 free throws. The Wildcats hit 19 of 35 two-point shots, an indication of their patience on offense and their willingness to attack the basket. Nick Johnson was the U of A’s best player in this regard. He scored 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting, taking only two threes and making them. Spencer Dinwiddie led Colorado with 18 points, but he got half of those points from the foul line (nine). He was unable to hit three-point tries, something that limited the Buffaloes’ offense down the stretch. Arizona will now get a third chance to beat UCLA, a team that swept the Wildcats (officially, too) in the regular season.
(10) Utah 79 (2) California 69 (OT)
Utah advances to play (3) Oregon in the semifinals on March 15
There might be a Cinderella in the house at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, and its name is the Utah Utes.
The No. 10 seed is creating chaos at the Pac-12 Tournament. A year after sixth-seeded Colorado improbably won four games in four days to pluck an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, Utah is halfway toward that same achievement. The Utes used a remarkable three-point shot by Jarred DuBois with four seconds left in regulation to earn an overtime period and then beat second-seeded California in the quarterfinals. The upset of the Golden Bears lifts Utah into the semifinals on Friday night against the Oregon Ducks.
DuBois’s three-pointer was an improbable 26-foot heave that was lofted over the tall frame of Cal big man David Kravish. Cal made the mistake of not fouling, but DuBois still hit a shot that most defenses would be happy to allow in such a situation. Once the ball went through the hoop, though, Utah became a team transformed. The Utes received production from several different sources in overtime. Jordan Loveridge and Jason Washburn hit clutch jumpers to give Utah a 69-63 lead with 1:52 left. California could not hit a three down the stretch, and the Utes cruised to the finish line. Cinderella lives in Vegas, if you can possibly believe it.
(3) Oregon 80 (6) Washington 77 (OT)
Oregon advances to play (10) Utah in the semifinals on March 15
The Washington Huskies knew that if they could get past third-seeded Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday night, they could play tenth-seeded Utah in the semifinals. Coach Lorenzo Romar’s team had a great opportunity to play for a possible automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, but it had to finish the job against a hated rival.
Oregon, trailing 64-62 with 20 seconds left in regulation, received two tying foul shots from Johnathan Loyd and forced overtime. Then, in the extra period, Oregon’s Arsalan Kazemi scored six straight points as part of an 8-0 run that gave the Ducks a 72-65 lead with 2:49 left. Washington could not mount a credible response, and the Ducks moved to the semifinals, leaving Utah as the only darkhorse left in this event.