Nico Mannion, coming off a game-winning shot Thursday against Pepperdine, scored a career-high 24 points on 11-of-14 shooting to lead No. 14 Arizona to a 92-82 victory Friday over Penn in a John Wooden Legacy semifinal game at Anaheim, Calif.
Mannion, a freshman, excelled despite tweaking his hip and having to get examined in the locker room with 14:24 left in regulation. He made three consecutive shots within two minutes after he returned.
He answered an 8-0 run by Penn by making a jumper with 2:29 left to put Arizona ahead 84-78. That helped spur the Wildcats to outscore the Quakers 8-1 and pull away.
Arizona (8-0) will play Wake Forest (5-2) in the championship game Sunday. The Demon Deacons beat Long Beach State 88-75 earlier Friday.
Mannion finished with four assists and no turnovers in 31 minutes. Zeke Nnaji had 16 points and seven rebounds and Chase Jeter finished 19 points and six rebounds. Josh Green contributed 14 points and Dylan Smith had 10.
Penn (4-3) was led by Jordan Dingle’s career-high 27 points on 7-of-14 shooting from 3-point range. Ryan Betley added 20 points and seven rebounds. Post player A.J. Brodeur played through foul trouble in the second half and finished with 11 points, 10 assists and five rebounds.
From the start, the Quakers went to Brodeur at the post often for him to either shoot or pass out for a perimeter shot. He had eight points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field with four assists at the half with Arizona leading 41-33.
Penn cut the lead to 43-40 with 17:59 left in regulation, but Arizona then scored nine consecutive points with the momentum including Brodeur getting his fourth foul with 17:07 left.
After Brodeur went to the bench, Mannion hit a 3-pointer and jumper and Nnaji scored uncontested inside to push Arizona’s lead to 52-40 with 16:13 remaining.
The lead increased to 60-44 with 13:47 left on two free throws by Nnaji, but right before that, Mannion went to the Arizona locker room to get examined after it appeared he tweaked his hip on a layup.
Mannion returned with 13:11 left and proceeded to make three jumpers to help the Wildcats build a 68-52 lead with 11:09 remaining.
Brodeur returned with 13:11 and was substituted in and out. His presence and two 3-pointers by Dingle helped cut the lead to 82-76 with 4:25 left.
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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.