UA HOOPS

Arizona basketball: St. Nick saved the day

It seemed game was over until sophomore 'just decided to help'
2012-12-27T00:00:00Z 2014-08-01T11:23:20Z Arizona basketball: St. Nick saved the dayBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 27, 2012 12:00 am  • 

HONOLULU - Leave it to Nick "Bunnies" Johnson to put new meaning into the term "help defense."

Johnson's monstrous leap to block Chase Tapley's layup along the left baseline Tuesday may go down as memorable as any of his high-flying dunks he's already thrown down in a season-and-a-half with the Wildcats.

Johnson's improbable block saved UA's 68-67 win over San Diego State in the Diamond Head Classic championship game and kept the Wildcats undefeated heading into Pac-12 play.

"Nick, obviously, came out of nowhere," UA coach Sean Miller said.

Johnson said the block compared to his denial of Justin Cobbs' layup at the end of UA's 78-74 win at California last season, but this one was with a one-point differential and with three seconds left on the clock.

As the final seconds wore down, San Diego State's Skylar Spencer set a screen that prompted Johnson and Brandon Ashley to switch the men they were guarding. Then Tapley raced past Ashley for what appeared to be a near-certain, game-winning layup.

"I came around a screen, and the Red Sea parted," Tapley told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I was thinking the game was over, and the next thing you know, he banged my stuff off the backboard."

Everyone thought it was over.

"It was scary," UA forward Solomon Hill said. "I'm not going to lie."

UA point guard Mark Lyons didn't feel any better. He gave UA a one-point lead on the previous possession by hitting two free throws after he drove inside for a layup, only to see it about to be erased.

Or so he thought.

"Honestly, I was nervous once Tapley turned the corner on Brandon," Lyons said. "I was like, 'Man, it's game over.'"

Then, as Lyons spoke in the Stan Sheriff Center hallway following the game, he motioned toward Johnson. "But Superman Bunnies over there came in and denied the shot," he said.

Bunnies himself described it a bit more modestly.

"Coach ran a pretty good play to get my guy and Brandon's guy switched," Johnson said. "I was on Tapley, but they set a little rub screen, and Tapley got the ball and went around him. So I just decided to help."

Just decided to help.

On StarNet: Follow the Cats on Bruce Pascoe's blog at azstarnet.com/pascoe

Top UA performers at the Diamond Head Classic

Pos Player Pts Reb Asst FG% 3pt%

F Solomon Hill 12.3 5.0 2.3 42.3 12.5

G Mark Lyons 12.0 1.7 3.7 38.7 30.0

G Nick Johnson 10.0 4.7 2.0 35.7 27.2

F Kevin Parrom 11.6 6.0 1.7 58.3 67.0

F Brandon Ashley 8.3 8.0 0.7 55.6 NA

Up Next

• What: Colorado at No. 3 Arizona

• Where: McKale Center

• When: 6 p.m. Jan. 3

• TV; radio: ESPNU; 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Sp)

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Pac-12 basketball standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Utah 6 1 0 0.857 16 3 0 0.842
Arizona 6 1 0 0.857 18 2 0 0.900
Stanford 5 2 0 0.714 14 5 0 0.737
Oregon State 5 2 0 0.714 13 5 0 0.722
Oregon 4 3 0 0.571 14 6 0 0.700
UCLA 3 4 0 0.429 11 9 0 0.550
Colorado 3 4 0 0.429 10 8 0 0.556
Washington 3 4 0 0.429 14 5 0 0.737
Washington State 3 4 0 0.429 9 10 0 0.474
Arizona State 2 5 0 0.286 11 10 0 0.524
California 1 6 0 0.143 11 9 0 0.550
USC 1 6 0 0.143 9 10 0 0.474

AP Top 25


Pac-12 basketball schedule

Teams Date Time
Oregon State at
Arizona State
1/28 6:00 pm
Oregon at
Arizona
1/28 8:00 pm
Stanford at
Washington
1/28 9:00 pm
Colorado at
USC
1/29 7:30 pm
Utah at
UCLA
1/29 8:00 pm
California at
Washington State
1/29 9:00 pm
Oregon at
Arizona State
1/30 6:00 pm
Oregon State at
Arizona
1/30 8:00 pm
Stanford at
Washington State
1/31 6:00 pm
Colorado at
UCLA
1/31 8:30 pm
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