HONOLULU – Nick Johnson blocked a layup by Chase Tapley in the closing seconds Tuesday night as No. 3 Arizona rallied from an eight-point deficit in the second half and remained undefeated with a 68-67 win over No. 17 San Diego State in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic.
Mark Lyons hit a pair of free throws with 13 seconds remaining for the last points by Arizona (12-0), which is off to its best start in 25 years.
Tapley led the Aztecs (11-2) with 19 points, and he looked to have the game-winner when he found a clear path down the left side of the lane. Johnson, however, came racing over from the 3-point line and swatted the ball away, the buzzer sounding during a battle for the loose ball.
The Wildcats celebrated their first win against a ranked opponent away from home since beating Gonzaga in December 2008 in Phoenix.
Solomon Hill kept Arizona in the game and finished with 21 points. He was voted the tournament MVP.
Jamaal Franklin, the leading scorer for San Diego State, ended his streak of 32 straight games scoring in double figures, and it was costly. He finished with nine points, missing a free throw with 31 seconds remaining that left the Aztecs a 67-66 lead.
Lyons drove the lane on the next possession and was fouled by Skylar Spencer and made both free throws.
Neither team led by more than two points over the final 10 minutes.
Arizona won despite shooting only 37 percent from the field, including 5-of-20 on 3-pointers. After turning the ball over just three times in the first half, Arizona had two turnovers that helped the Aztecs go on an 8-0 run to start the second period for a 35-29 lead.
After a sluggish, defensive battle, the pace and quality of the game picked up the rest of the way.
The Wildcats called a timeout trailing 41-33, and then went on an 18-9 run over the next six minutes to regain the lead. Hill was always in the picture. Brandon Ashley scored inside and converted a three-point play to spark the run. Arizona regained the lead on Hill’s two free throws, and he made two more with just under six minutes remaining for a 60-58 Arizona lead.
The game was tied six more times the rest of the way.
Kevin Parrom scored 17 points for the Wildcats, including a 3-pointer with 2:16 remaining that answered a 3 by Tapley. Johnson finished with 11 points for Arizona.