Nick Johnson found his stroke just in time, and for that the Arizona Wildcats are headed to the Elite Eight for the second time in four seasons. Having missed his first 10 field goals, Johnson scored 13 points in the final 2:46 to help lift the Wildcats to a 70-64 win over San Diego State in the NCAA West Region semifinal tonight at the Honda Center. The win moved UA to 33-4 overall and into a West Region final game with Wisconsin (29-7) on Saturday at the Honda Center. SDSU ended its season at 31-5. The Wildcats will be playing their second Elite Eight game under UA coach Sean Miller at exactly the same arena, having lost to UConn by two points at the Honda Center in 2010-11. Johnson, the Wildcats’ unquestioned leader and Pac-12 Player of the Year, he finally got on the board tonight when it mattered most. He took an assist from Gabe York off an SDSU turnover and made a layup to give UA its biggest lead of the game to that point, 56-51, with 2:45 left. He later sank a three-pointer that gave UA a 59-53, giving giddy relief to the UA side of a Honda Center crowd that was nearly split between UA and SDSU fans. Then Johnson hit both ends of a one-and-one free-throw opportunity with 1:30 left, giving UA a 61-53 lead, two more free throws with 49 seconds left, another two with 27 seconds left and ... a final two with 2.3 seconds left. That made Johnson 8 for 8 from the line in the final 90 seconds, reminiscent of when Johnson was 6 for 6 from the line in the final 24 seconds of UA's 72-70 comeback win at Michigan on Dec. 14. However, the Aztecs still gave the Wildcats a final scare, cutting it to 67-64 with 10.8 seconds to go and sending Gabe York to the line with a foul. York made 1 of 2 free throws but San Diego State missed two shots on its final possession, and Miller began slapping and hugging with his players at that point, before Johnson nailed his final free throws. Johnson had been snakebitten through the first 30 minutes of the game, had it initially so bad that his 10th field goal attempt, a short jumper in the lane, rimmed out. But the Wildcats still managed to take a 50-49 lead later, with 7:15 to go, when T.J. McConnell drove inside for a layup. UA never gave up the lead after that point. Arizona had kept the game within a basket early in the second half, despite Johnson being 0 for 9 at that point and SDSU outrebounding UA by 11. But the Aztecs had nine turnovers then, which led to 15 UA points.
Arizona Wildcats beat San Diego State 70-64 to reach Elite Eight
Arizona Daily Star | Mar 28