Mar 13, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller instructs against the Utah Utes during the first half in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Conference college basketball tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Cats Cruise, Run Utes Out of Vegas

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After such a devastating loss to Oregon to end the regular season, it left Wildcat fans wondering how the team would respond in the Pac-12 Tournament. Utah traded blows with Washington and advanced to the quarterfinals to take on the #1 seed Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament. Utah had given Arizona plenty of trouble this season as they were just a few possessions away from an upset in Tucson, meanwhile they took the Wildcats to overtime in Salt Lake. This matchup gave Wildcat fans a lot of concern going into the game but today, there wasn’t a worry in the world once the Cats took the stage in Vegas and downed the Utes 79-31.

A few minutes into the game, this looked as if it was going to be similar to the Pac-12 season opener for the Wildcats against Washington State, where they held the Cougars to just 7 points in the first half and 25 points through 40 minutes of play. Utah shot just 25% from the field and went through multiple stretches without a field goal, getting most of their points at the free throw line. A combination of facing the #1 defense in the country, poor shot selection and unlucky rolls demised the Utes from the beginning. At one point in the second half, Nick Johnson was leading Utah 14-13, as the Cats held a 40-13 lead. The Arizona bench slowly fed onto the court in the second half as the Cats were on cruise control, giving many of the bench players valuable playing time and the starters extra rest in the tournament.

One thing to note is the fact that no single Wildcat stole the show and took the game over. It was a complete team effort where the defense dominated and created easy points on the other side of the court. It was nice to see Jordin Mayes get in the action and contribute some fresh legs and tournament experience to get his confidence rolling. Meanwhile it was the backcourt in Nick Johnson and TJ McConnell lead the Wildcats in scoring with 14 and 13, respectively.

It’s no easy task to beat a team three times in one season, especially a pesky Utah team that seemed to matchup against Arizona nicely in the regular season. But beating a team three times is exactly what Arizona will have to do once again. Colorado has set themselves up for a date with Arizona tomorrow night in the semifinals at 6PM PT, with the winner advancing to the Pac-12 Tournament Championship. We’ll see what Xavier Johnson has to say this time, after claiming the Buffs will blowout the Wildcats when they play in Boulder following their loss in Tucson. We all know how that one worked out.

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