Arizona Basketball: Wildcats Roll to Victory in Pac-12 Tournament Quarterfinals

TUCSON, AZ - DECEMBER 21: Allonzo Trier
TUCSON, AZ - DECEMBER 21: Allonzo Trier /

Arizona Basketball (25-7) overcame a slow start in the game to take down the Colorado Buffaloes (17-15) in Las Vegas during the Quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday afternoon.

As any Arizona Basketball fan knows, games played during the Pac-12 Tournament end up making Las Vegas feel like McKale North, and the Wildcat faithful were in full voice, filling the stadium with chants of “U of A” throughout the contest. Postseason games seem to bring out the brightest of stars, including recent Super Bowl MVP, and former Wildcat Star Nick Foles.

The third game between the two programs was the rubber match of the series, as both teams held serve in the regular season, each winning on their home court. The regular season games were close, hard-fought contests, and for the first half of Thursday’s game, it looked like the third match-up was going to follow the same formula as the Wildcats were only able to take a two-point lead to the locker room.

Arizona Wildcats Basketball
Arizona Wildcats Basketball /

Arizona Wildcats Basketball

The slow start for the Wildcats, was not unexpected for a team that arrived in Las Vegas less than 24-hours before tip-off, squaring off against a Colorado team that shot a season-high against ASU, knocking the favored Sun Devils out of the tournament, in the first round.

The Buffalos started the game hot, continuing their torrid pace from their previous game by hitting four of their first six shots, jumping out to a quick six-point lead, leading 11-5 at the first media timeout. Arizona continued to battle. However, and took their first lead since the opening minutes of the game following a 3-point field goal by Rawle Alkins with nine minutes left in the half. Momentum shifted back and forth over the remainder of the half, as each team traded runs.

Arizona was able to hold on to the two-point lead (35-33) after Colorado senior George King missed an open 3-pointer from the corner as to time expired. Each team shot over 45% for the half. Arizona was paced by the play of their veteran guards, as Allonzo Trier finished the stanza with 12, and Parker Jackson Cartwright chipped in eight. Their production offsets an unusually quite 20-minutes by All-American Deandre Ayton who ended the half with only four points.

The start of the second half was sloppy as each team traded missed shots and turnovers until Dusan Ristic broke the drought with a layup with 18:36 left in the game. Ristic’s basket was quickly matched by a jumper from Colorado freshman Tyler Bey. The teams traded baskets, with neither gaining an advantage, as Arizona maintained a slim lead through much of the early part of the half.

The big blow to Colorado’s chances came with about 13 minutes left in the half, as Pac-12 All-Freshman Guard McKinley Wright went down with an ankle injury while battling for a rebound under his basket. Video replays appeared to show McKinley coming down from a rebound attempt, stepping on an Arizona player’s shoe, his ankle folding under him awkwardly.

Unable to continue to play, Arizona capitalized with a quick basket, continuing what eventually turned in to a 14 point run. It was a run that the Buffalos were never able to recover from, with their leader on the bench for the remainder of the game.

Arizona, meanwhile took advantage of their talent advantage in the second half, ramping up their ball movement to find open shooter after open shooter, finishing the game shooting 44% from the field and 38.9% from three. They also managed to bully their way to the free throw line consistently, finishing the game with 38 attempts, knocking down 26, to Colorado’s 22 total attempts from the line.

While the Buff’s offense was clicking, Arizona’s defense stepped up, keeping the formerly hot shorting Buffalos from finding open shots from the perimeter, with King being the only Colorado player to hit a triple in the second half.

Arizona dominated statistically, as all five starters ended the game in double figures, compared to only a single starter for Colorado (George King – 19 pts.). Arizona also decisively won the rebound battle, pulling down 36 to the Buffalos 27, and out shone Colorado from the three-point line by nearly 14% (38.9% to 25%). Allonzo Trier finished with a game-high 22 points on only nine total field goal attempts, in addition to handing out three assists.

Here are the game highlights:

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Arizona will take pm UCLA after the Bruins knocked off the Stanford Cardinal in the second quarterfinal game on Thursday afternoon. UCLA won the only regular-season contest between the two teams, handing Arizona their lone home loss of the season. Tip-off for the semi-final game is scheduled for 6:00 pm PST. Bear Down!