UofA outlasts #5 CU, advances to conference semi-finals

The Arizona Wildcats are back in familiar territory.

Sean Miller’s team advanced to the Pac-12 Conference Tournament semifinal for the third consecutive season following Thursday’s physical 79-69 win over 5th-seeded Colorado at MGM Grand here in Las Vegas.

We’re obviously thrilled with the win,” Miller explained after the 4th-seeded ‘Cats advanced to face top-seed UCLA Friday night. “We beat an excellent basketball team. You think about Colorado being seeded 5th, it really shows the depth and quality of our conference from top to bottom.”

Miller and the Wildcats (25-6) showed the quality and depth of their basketball team in front of a partisan UofA crowd. Four players hit double figures and all nine ‘Cats who played scored.

UofA was led in scoring by guard Nick Johnson who played an exceptional floor game (18 points on 6-7 shooting, 4-5 three-pointers) and harassed Buffaloes star Spencer Dinwiddie into a 4-12 shooting game. The former Las Vegas Findlay Prep star was everywhere at both ends of the court.

“Yeah, I felt that coach made a good decision to switch me on to Spencer,” Johnson explained afterward. “I got to pick the ball up and move a little bit and get going. I think that led to good shots on the offensive end.”

UofA survived a second half flurry by the Buffs (21-11) and got some help when point guard Mark Lyons (14 points) drained a corner three in front of the Wildcats bench as the shot clock expired late in the contest.

“The shot… was the play of the game,” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle candidly admitted. “That was a breakdown on our part defensively.”

UCLA beat Arizona both times during the regular season.

A Valley native, Eric has had a passion for the Arizona sports scene since an early age. He has covered some of the biggest events including Super Bowls, national championships and the NBA and MLB playoffs in his near 20 years in local media.