The Arizona Wildcats are not leaving Las Vegas — at least not after one day.
No. 5 Arizona (21-11) will play No. 4 USC (22-9) at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals after defeating No. 12 Washington 77-70 in the opening round at the T-Mobile Arena at Las Vegas today.
Arizona’s freshman trio of Josh Green, Zeke Nnaji and Nico Mannion combined to score 44 points on 12-of-25 shooting from the field to lead the Wildcats to the win over Washington, which only five days ago beat Arizona 69-63 at McKale Center in the regular-season finale.
Green led the Wildcats with 19 points. Mannion finished with 14 and Nnaji, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, had 11. Dylan Smith had 14 points and six assists.
The Wildcats never trailed by more than two points in the game.
After leading 35-30 at halftime, Arizona outscored the Huskies 14-4 to build its biggest lead of the game at that point — 49-34 with 14:14 remaining in regulation.
Washington did not get closer than 10 afterwards until Marcus Tsohonis converted a 3-point play with 4:12 left to cut Arizona’s lead to 65-58.
Washington made 21 of 24 free throw attempts in the game.
Arizona responded on its next two possessions to build the lead to 69-58 on Christian Koloko’s putback with 3:33 remaining.
After Washington cut the lead to 71-65 after a free throw by Isaiah Stewart, Green was fouled and he missed the front end of a one-and-one. Jaden McDaniels fouled out on that play with 10 points and five rebounds.
Tsohonis drew Koloko’s fifth foul and made one of two free throws with 1:00 left to cut the lead to 71-66.
No looking back! Got the W! pic.twitter.com/DCGorlsspy
Smith, who made all six of his free throws, secured the win with two free throws with 44 seconds left.
The Wildcats forced Washington into 19 turnovers and Arizona had 18 assists on its 23 field goals made. The Wildcats, who had 18 turnovers in Saturday’s loss, had 13 today.
Arizona split its series with USC during the season with each team winning at home. The Wildcats won the first game 85-80 on Feb. 6 and the Trojans were victorious 57-48 on Feb. 27.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.