LAS VEGAS – You probably know the drill: Arizona was up two with 34 seconds left. The Wildcats had the ball and, well… Mark Lyons was thinking about taking the shot.
But he didn’t.
“That last possession I looked at him and told myself I was going to go,” said Lyons, who already hit a big three with 2:03 left. “Usually I would take a shot or look for Solomon. But Nick was having a great game.
“I said, ‘You know what? He’s going to score.’ So I gave him the ball and he scored. I knew he was going to make a great decision with the basketball.”
Johnson found himself isolated on the right wing, with only the 6-foot-1 Askia Booker in his way, and knew it was time to drive.
“Cheeks (Lyons) is usually our big shot-maker and he trusted me to iso me on the wing,” Johnson said. “I just took advantage of Booker being smaller than me and finished the shot. “
That play was one of many key examples of Arizona’s teamwork Thursday: The Wildcats had their usual double-digit scoring from Hill, Johnson and Lyons but also received 25 points off the bench.
That included eight points each from Brandon Ashley and Jordin Mayes, who made 2 of 3 three pointers in 11 minutes while playing to Miller’s liking defensively.
“By the way, Jordin is one of our best perimeter defenders, and even when he wasn’t making shots, he really did a good job defensively,” UA coach Sean Miller said. “Today he combined both of those qualities (offense and defense). It’s one of many reasons why we won the game.”
Arizona had six players each get at least one steal. The Wildcats forced 13 Colorado turnovers -- 10 in the first half – and scored 17 points off those turnovers.
Familiarity helped. Miller said the Wildcats knew that Colorado often kicked the ball back to where it started when setting ball screens, so UA tried to be more aggressive against them.
“Colorado loves to get into the middle and kick across, almost like you’re coming full speed into the middle of the foul line area, draw help, make the next pass and they really hurt us there,” Miller said. “So we tried to be more aggressive on the ball screens and off the ball really worry more about our man and less about the help.”
The win gives UA another crack at UCLA, after the Wildcats were beaten 84-73 at McKale Center on Jan. 24 and 74-69 in Los Angeles on March 2. The semifinal tipoff is scheduled for 6:06 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks (yes, it’s the final time you DirecTV folks are out of luck).
“I felt we played a lot better the last game” against UCLA, Lyons said. “It was a very hard-fought game. We’ve just got to keep playing hard.”
Our full coverage will be posted later tonight. Here's the official box score.