LAS VEGAS — What a day.
As I strolled through the MGM Grand’s wonderful lazy river for, like, 30 minutes this afternoon, it was already on the right track.
What a great night cap, with two exciting, thrilling, close-to-the-end basketball games.
What a great day of basketball, I am exhausted!!!— Bill Walton (@BillWalton) March 14, 2015
If the Pac-12 ever wanted to defend itself for its widely divisive postseason awards selections, tonight would be a great spot for them to highlight.
Joseph Young and Dana Altman, certainly, leading the somehow-2-seed Oregon Ducks to somehow playing in the championship game. That’s the coach and player of the year.
Then there was, Stanley Johnson, who at times has struggled in crunch time, did NOT do that on Friday night. That's the freshman of the year.
Anyway, here’s a round-up of the Pac-12 Tournament’s semi-final games.
The championship game is at 8 p.m. on Saturday night. So, my Mom in New Jersey will probably be asleep. I know my Dad will be.
Also, check out my Joseph Young sidebar, Greg Hansen's column, Bruce's recap, scouting report, seen & heard talking about the Pac-12's extension with MGM, Jon Gold's feature on Nick Johnson (who was in attendance), and a photo slideshow.
(1) Arizona against (4) UCLA
- Final score: Arizona 70, UCLA 64
- Player of the game: Brandon Ashley (Arizona). I probably should have made Ashley the MVP after Thursday’s Cal win. I won’t make the same mistake twice. He had a career night — Sean Miller called it the best of his career — with 24 points (on 7-of-11 shooting), 7 rebounds and one block. As a few players struggled on offense for most of the night, particularly Kaleb Tarczewski and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Ashley might have won the game for Arizona. He’s playing the best basketball of his career right now.
- Key moment(s): Stanley’s clutch moment. Arizona was only up by two with one minute left, after Tony Parker made a lay-up. The Wildcats ran the clock down to 37 seconds when Johnson made a 3-pointer, sealing the win. Johnson started off slow, but finished with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists. Also, a key moment might’ve come a night earlier, when a facial injury led to Kevon Looney wearing a mask which led to his vision being affected which led to a rough game for him with just five points, three of them coming on a late 3-pointer.
- Stat: 11. For the third time in four games, T.J. McConnell had 11 assists. Although, in a strange turn, he had five turnovers, a season-high. Four of them came early in the game, at least.
- Quote (Arizona): “Yeah, you know, losing to these guys the last two years has pretty much left a bad taste in all of our mouths. And we were down 47 40, and we all just said we have to dig deep for this one, whatever heart you have, you have to give more.” — McConnell
- Quote (UCLA): “If my math is right I think there's 31 at large teams. 32. There's no way there's 31 at large teams better than we are.” — Steve Alford, UCLA coach
(2) Oregon against (3) Utah
- Final score: Oregon 67, Utah 64
- Player of the game: Joseph Young (Oregon). He’s been a man on a “Look, guys, I deserve this award. Stop saying I don’t. Ok? Ok? Ok," type of a mission. Fake conversation with a fake Joseph Young aside, he scored 25 points one night after scoring 30. Combined, he’s scored 30 points in the last two second halves.
- Key moment(s): Duh. The shot. I wrote about it more here. What could’ve also been a key moment? When Young made a baaaaad play, turned the ball over on an offensive foul, and gave the Utes the opportunity to tie the game with less than 10 seconds left — which they did. Still, redemption is spelled JOE YOUNG. Unless my spellcheck isn’t working.
- Stat: 52. Combined margin of victory for Arizona in two games against the Ducks this season.
- Quote (Oregon): “"We have the utmost confidence in him. He's always the first one in the gym, the last one out. As soon as he took that shot, I knew it was going in." — Dillon Brooks, Ducks forward
- Quote (Utah): “At this point, I’m just overwhelmed. That was a hell of a shot.” — Utes guard Brandon Taylor, who scored 24 points, but 16 of them in the first half.