LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Two emphatic alley-oop dunks to Nick Johnson ignited No. 4 Arizona in each half against Colorado in a 63-43 win tonight as the Wildcats moved a game closer toward a Pac-12 tournament title for the first time since 2002.
All that stands in the way of the Wildcats is UCLA or Stanford, both of which play another semifinal game tonight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Judging from how Arizona has handled Utah (71-39 win Thursday) and Colorado, the Bruins and Cardinal better take note of how the Wildcats have shut down their opponent’s top threats.
Utah’s Jordan Loveridge, Delon Wright and Brandon Taylor were a combined 1 of 16 against Arizona. Colorado’s Xavier Johnson, Askia Booker and Josh Scott were combined 10 of 34.
That’s a 22.2 percent shooting mark (11 of 50) from the opposition’s top six players, guys who are the reason why Utah and Colorado combine for 44 victories.
As good as Arizona’s defense was, the Wildcats’ flair for the spectacular on the other end was more impressive.
Johnson’s alley-oop pass from Aaron Gordon with 8:17 left in the first half put the Wildcats ahead 16-13. The crowd went berserk. It was a one-handed, swooping slam from Johnson, unlike any seen from a player who is known for his hightlight-reel dunks.
Johnson hit a three-pointer on Arizona’s next possession that was part of an eight-point outburst that gave the Wildcats a 22-13 lead.
In the second half, another alley-oop jam by Johnson, a reverse, behind the back dunk off a pass from T.J. McConnell, put Arizona on top 36-29 with 15:45 left in the gamed. The dunk started a 17-3 run that put Colorado away.
The run was capped by a Jordin Mayes layup with 7:58 left, putting Arizona ahead 51-32. Mayes had six points and two rebounds to continue his impressive postseason runs including the Elite Eight season of 2010-11 and last year’s Pac-12 tournament.
Arizona held an opponent to less than 50 points for the sixth time this season, the most since the 1950-51 team held seven opponents under 50.