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T.J. McConnell (4) and Arizona streaked past SDSU after facing a halftime deficit. (Associated Press)
T.J. McConnell (4) and Arizona streaked past SDSU after facing a halftime deficit. (Associated Press)

Johnson, Wildcats dispatch pesky Aztecs

Guard scores 15 down stretch as Arizona tops San Diego St.

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Nick Johnson scored all of his 15 points in the last 2:45 and Arizona rallied to beat San Diego State 70-64 Thursday night and advance to the final eight of the NCAA tournament.

Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 15 points each for the top-seeded Wildcats (33-4). They next play Wisconsin in the West Regional final Saturday.

Xavier Thames scored 25 points and Dwayne Polee added 13 points for the Aztecs (31-5). Those two tried to bail out SDSU in the final minute, each hitting 3-pointers to cut the deficit to 65-61 with 38 seconds left.

The drama wasn’t over yet in a game featuring tenacious defense and rabid intensity by both teams.

SDSU got called for a 10-second violation, and the Wildcats regained the ball. Johnson got fouled and made both for a 67-61 lead with 26 seconds to go. Thames got fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all three free-throw attempts to leave SDSU trailing 67-64.

The Aztecs had Johnson trapped near their bench, but he passed out of the double team and Gabe York got fouled at the other end. He missed the first and made the second, keeping Arizona ahead 68-64. Thames missed, and Johnson went to the line again where he ended the scoring with two free throws.

Hollis-Jefferson fouled out with 4:42 to play, but Johnson, who missed his first 10 shots, made his first basket a couple minutes later and carried the Wildcats across the finish line after they trailed much of the second half.

“When I hit one shot it just started to feel a little bit better,” he said. “I just kept on hitting shots.”

Polee’s defense helped keep Johnson scoreless in the first half, when Johnson went 0 for 7 from the field. He finally hit a jumper at the buzzer, but typical of Arizona’s early luck, it was ruled no good. Johnson, the Pac-12 player of the year, finished 2 of 12 from the field, but made all 10 of his free throws.

Arizona coach Sean Miller joined his brother Archie in the final eight. The younger Miller coached Dayton to an 82-72 victory over Stanford of the Pac-12 in the South Regional semifinals.

“We watched the game in our locker room,” Sean Miller said. “The fact that two of us are in the Elite Eight is a very unique situation, but we’ll see.”

Wisconsin 69, Baylor 52
Arizona 70, San Diego St. 64
Dayton 82, Stanford 72
Florida 79, UCLA 68
Tennessee vs. Michigan4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Kentucky vs. Louisville6:45 p.m. (CBS)
Connecticut vs. Iowa St.4:27 p.m. (TBS)
Michigan St. vs. Virginia6:57 p.m. (TBS)


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