Arizona’s unyielding defense and ability to take advantage of 21 Gonzaga turnovers have the Wildcats marching forward in March Madness with an 84-61 victory Sunday night at the Viejas Arena in San Diego.
The win puts the No. 1-seeded Wildcats into their 17th Sweet Sixteen in the program’s history. They will face No. 4 San Diego State in Anaheim, Calif., at approximately 7:10 p.m. on Thursday night.
Arizona: 16-4 all-time in Round of 32 games (won 4 straight)
Arizona (32-4) defeated the Aztecs 69-60 at Viejas on Nov. 14. The 60 points were the fewest the Aztecs scored in the non-conference portion of their schedule. Gonzaga’s total against Arizona was its third-lowest scoring output this season. The Bulldogs did not lose by more than 10 points before Sunday night.
The Wildcats tallied 19 blocked shots and 19 steals against Weber State and Gonzaga in the two games in San Diego. Their aggressive play translated into high-percentage shots on the other end. They made 55.3 percent from the field against Weber State and 49.2 percent against Gonzaga.
Arizona also had five players in double-figure scoring led by the freshman duo of Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with 18 points each. A year ago to the day, Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson lost their respective state high school tournament championship games.
They were overpowering at this level a year later. Gordon tallied six rebounds despite playing with four fouls much of the second half. His 279 rebounds this season is an Arizona freshman rebound record, topping the 278 produced by Bob Elliott in 1974.
Hollis-Jefferson also produced five rebounds, five assists (with no turnovers) and four blocked shots.
Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson combined to make 13 of 18 from the field against Gonzaga after making 12 of 16 against Weber State. They are shooting a combined 25 of 34 (73.5 percent) in their first two NCAA games of their career.
Nick Johnson (17 points), T.J. McConnell (12) and Gabe York (11) also scored in double figures. The Wildcats produced 24 assists with only six turnovers. The assist total ties a season high (Arizona recorded 24 at Colorado on Feb. 22). The turnover total was one shy of the fewest this season.
Gonzaga, which entered the game ranking fifth nationally shooting 49.8 percent as a team, made only 40.7 percent of their attempts.