Skip to content

No. 1 Arizona survives No. 4 San Diego State, advances to the Elite 8

Mar 28, 2014, 12:44 AM EDT

It took 37 minutes and 14 seconds, but eventually No. 1 Arizona’s all-american shooting guard Nick Johnson scored.

It was a layup in transition, one that capped a 10-2 momentum-changing run to put the Wildcats up 56-51. After SDSU scored at the other end, Johnson buried his first three of the game and followed that up with eight straight free throws to help the Wildcats hold off the No. 4 seed Aztecs, 70-64, and advance to the Elite 8. He finished with 15 points, all coming in the final 2:46.

He had 15 of Arizona’s last 16 points and hit ten critical free throws during that stretch. That’s what veterans do. That’s what all-americans do. And that’s why Johnson is Arizona’s closer.

The Wildcats will face No. 2 Wisconsin on Saturday night in the Honda Center in Anaheim for the West Region title and the right to go to the Final Four.

And after this performance, the idea of Arizona being a national championship caliber team only gets reinforced.

That may sound weird after the performance we just witnessed, but hear me out.

San Diego State is a really good basketball team. On Thursday night, they played about as well as they can possibly play. They didn’t turn the ball over and allow Arizona to get out in transition. They pounded the Wildcats on the offensive glass, and even if it didn’t result in a ton of second chance points, it forced Sean Miller to send all five players to the defensive glass. That prevents leak outs. That prevents fast breaks.

And that, in turn, forced Arizona to play a possession by possession game, where their subpar half court offense had to try and score against SDSU’s set defense, which is as stout as any defense in the country.

That’s not all. In addition to the fact that Johnson missed his first ten shots from the floor, Kaleb Tarczewski, their starting center, picked up three fouls in the first half and drew his fourth with more than 18 minutes left in the game. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who finished with 15 points off the bench, fouled out with just under five minutes left. Arizona is not a deep team at all, particularly in their front court.

Throw in the fact that Xavier Thames had it going in the second half, and this was a worst-case scenario for Sean Miller. This was the blueprint for what you needs to happen to beat Arizona.

And they survived.

If Arizona proved anything tonight, it’s that their defense is good enough to overcome their worst performance.

That’s a scary thought for Wisconsin.

Latest Posts
  1. UNLV awaiting two important personnel decisions in its front court

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:27 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Wood returning would ensure that this young but talented front line wouldn’t lack for experience.

  2. Missouri receives commitments from two John A. Logan College players

    Apr 18, 2015, 8:56 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Missouri is hopeful that these two junior college products can help them rebound from a tough 2014-15.

  3. Vermont signee injured in car crash speaks first words in more than ten weeks

    Apr 18, 2015, 7:44 PM EDT

    Vermont Athletics Vermont Athletics

    Josh Speidel hadn’t spoken since the crash February 1. His first word: “Mom.”

  4. Three-star forward Rapolas Ivanauskas becomes Northwestern’s first 2016 commitment

    Apr 18, 2015, 6:15 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Chris Collins and his staff have done a good job of recruiting local talent, and they reeled in another player Saturday.

  5. 2016 New Mexico commit Mitch Lightfoot decides to reopen recruitment

    Apr 18, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT

    Craig Neal Craig Neal

    Lightfoot was on the receiving end of offers from Arizona State and Utah before committing to UNM, and the new staff at ASU has already reached out to him.

  6. Former Cornell forward Shonn Miller headed to UConn for final season of eligibility

    Apr 18, 2015, 4:39 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpte4mwi1zmrlntq4ndc4yjfiywyzztq3zgnhzgfhmgu0 AP

    Miller averaged 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season, and he’s an important addition for the UConn front court.

  7. Five members of Iowa State’s 2014-15 team have been arrested after two more arrests this week

    Apr 18, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Dustin Hogue AP

    More arrests at Iowa State as two more members of the 2014-15 roster were charged within the last week.

  8. Boise State star granted fifth year of eligibility

    Apr 18, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    Anthony Drmic AP

    Boise State received some encouraging news this week as Anthony Drmic is returning for another season.

  9. Purdue center A.J. Hammons to return for senior season

    Apr 18, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Hammons’ decision to return makes the Boilermakers a Top 25 team.

  10. Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan will earn his degree this spring

    Apr 18, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT

    Eddie Jordan AP

    Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan has been taking classes at the school in order to complete his degree.

  11. Storylines from the Jordan Brand Classic: Diallo claims another MVP; Briscoe wins over crowd

    Apr 18, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    2015 Jordan Brand Classic Getty Images

    A look at the top storylines from the 14th annual Jordan Brand Classic.

  12. Illinois lands commitment from Charlotte graduate transfer big man Mike Thorne Jr.

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:58 AM EDT

    Kacinas Thorne AP

    Illinois landed a huge graduate transfer on Saturday.

  13. Report: Coppin State graduate transfer Sterling Smith will visit four programs

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT

    Sterling Brown, Rashad Smith AP

    Coppin State junior guard Sterling Smith is looking like a prime graduate transfer.

  14. Five-star Kentucky commit believes the NCAA will clear him to play

    Apr 18, 2015, 9:35 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Kentucky five-star big man Skal Labissiere believes that the NCAA will allow him to play this season.

  15. West defeats East 118-116 in the Jordan Brand Classic

    Apr 17, 2015, 10:23 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Cheick Diallo won named MVP for both the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic.

  16. Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg undergoes successful open heart surgery

    Apr 17, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Hoiberg just completed his fifth season at Iowa State.

  17. Gonzaga big man to return for senior season

    Apr 17, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Domantas Sabonis previously announced he would return.

  18. Top plays from the Jordan Brand Classic practice

    Apr 17, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    diallo

    The Jordan Brand Classic is Friday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

  19. Duke among list of candidates for graduate transfer guard

    Apr 17, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The former Villanova guard cut his list to eight.