The Arizona Wildcats rolled to Pac-12 championship tonight in the same manner that they put together a school-record 21-0 start this season.
Arizona beat Stanford 79-66 to clinch the league title outright with two games still remaining, forcing eight Cardinal turnovers and keeping Stanford to just 36-percent shooting in the first half.
UA point guard T.J. McConnell celebrated by holding the ball for the final seconds of the game, then grinning as he stared into the crowd, and slammed the ball down excitedly.
The Wildcats then ran up and down through the UA student section, much as they had in 2010-11 when they won their first Pac-12 title under coach Sean Miller. Then they put on Pac-12 Conference champion T-Shirts and senior guard Jordin Mayes was honored for Senior Day ceremonies.
After all that, the Wildcats snipped down the McKale Center nets, which has become a new tradition under Miller.
Aaron Gordon led the Wildcats with 19 points while McConnell had 14 points and four turnovers. UA guard Gabe York had 12 points while making 3 of 5 three pointers.
Not only did Arizona earn its 11th outright Pac-10/12 title but the Wildcats have won or tied for the league crown 13 times since joining it in 1978-79.
Arizona also went undefeated at home for the first time since 2010-11, when the Wildcats won the Pac-12 and reached the NCAA Elite Eight.
And for Miller, the title means he’s just the fourth head coach to win at least two regular season Pac-12 titles in his first five years in the league since the conference expanded to 10 teams in 1978-79.
The No. 3 Wildcats improved to 27-2 overall and 14-2 in the Pac-12, while Stanford dropped to 18-10 and 9-7.
With Arizona leading by 13 points at halftime and by 25 midway through the second half, there wasn’t much drama after halftime, though the Cardinal did cut Arizona’s lead to 11 points late in the game.
It didn’t matter either that the game was officiated by only two referees for the final 16 minutes, with official Verne Harris leaving with UA trainer Justin Kokoskie after apparently pulling a hamstring.
Arizona went on a 19-7 run in the middle f the second half to take a 68-43 lead by the time Aaron Gordon drove inside for a layup. At that point, Arizona had hit 47 percent of its field goals, with Gabe York making 3 of 5 three-pointers.
Stanford's Stefan Nastic, who had 10 points and five rebounds for Stanford a month ago against Arizona at Maples Pavilion, fouls out with 8:47 left and just 2 points on 1-for-7 shooting.
The game was the final home game for UA senior Jordin Mayes, who is now tied for second on UA’s alltime wins list with 107. It also could be the last for UA forward Aaron Gordon and UA guard Nick Johnson, who are projected NBA draft picks next June.
In the first half, Arizona forced, eight turnovers en route to a 41-28 halftime lead.
A win will clinch the Pac-12 title for the second time in coach Sean Miller’s five seasons, while it will also give UA an unbeaten home mark also for the second time under Miller. Arizona last did both in 2010-11, when it reached the NCAA Elite Eight.
Aaron Gordon led UA in the half with 12 points while T.J. McConnell had eight.
While Stanford turned the ball over eight times, the Cardinal also only hit 36 percent from the field, often putting up contested shots.
Defense fueled the Wildcats' offense throughout the half. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson joined the party toward the end of the first half when he blocked a layup from Stanford’s Chasson Randle and took it coast-to-coast for a layup. He then blocked a shot from Dwight Powell on Stanford’s next possession, which eventually turned to a layup by Aaron Gordon.
At the end of all that, UA led 37-21 and the Wildcats coasted the rest of the first half.
Arizona ran off to a typical start using defense to fuel its offense and take early leads of 10-3 and 19-11.
The Wildcats converted Stanford’s first four turnovers into baskets, and forced five turnovers overall through the first eight minutes of the game. Meanwhile, Arizona made 7 of its first 12 field goals with T.J. McConnell making all three of his through the first eight minutes.