Arizona put not only the Pac-12 but also the entire college basketball landscape on notice after decimating Utah in a 71-39 rout during the Pac-12 tournament's second round.
Entering the tournament as the top seed and perennial favorite, the Wildcats destroyed the Utes Thursday, who defeated Washington yesterday to advance past the opening round.
As Utah watched its chances of securing a March Madness spot slip away, Arizona made a strong case for deserving a No. 1 seed entering the tournament. But before worrying about that, the Wildcats are two victories shy of seizing the Pac-12 title.
Wednesday's action provided some close finishes between teams needing a title run to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. The competition level, however, does not look as fierce within the conference after Thursday's initial matchup.
Here's a look at Day 2's Pac-12 Tournament results, followed by a look ahead to Day 3.
Arizona 71, Utah 39
It's safe to say Arizona is ready to make a Final Four run.
After falling to No. 4 in the national rankings with an upset at the hands of Oregon, Arizona achieved vengeance by crushing Utah.
Allow ESPN Insider's Kevin Pelton to explain how one-sided this matchup became.
The constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, so not sure why we're making Utah play Arizona for 40 full minutes.— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) March 13, 2014
At the end of the first half, Utah converted just five field goals, entering the locker room with 13 points on 26.3 percent shooting. Nick Johnson alone earned 12 first-half points for the Wildcats, who held a 21-point advantage at the break.
According to NBC College Basketball Talk's Raphielle Johnson, those 13 points represented a record low in Pac-12 half of play:
The 13 points allowed in the half by Arizona sets a Pac-12 tournament record for fewest points allowed in a half. Incredibly impressive.— Raphielle Johnson (@raphiellej) March 13, 2014
While Utah scored a few more times, the second half offered up much of the same. Arizona kept its foot on the pedal, producing several highlight clips, including this alley-oop from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson:
Star forward Aaron Gordon scored just 11 points during the blowout in a collective beating, though he added seven boards and two blocks. Johnson led the team with 14 points while T.J. McConnell added another 13 for good measure.
When the other guys finish with 39 points on 25.5 percent shooting, that's more than enough on the offensive side.
Utah didn't have a single player score in double digits. After committing nearly as many turnovers (11) as made field goals (12), the Utes never got anything going in any phase of this lopsided affair.
Colorado 59, California 56
In a much more even bout, Colorado salvaged another nail-biter to advance past the quarterfinals over California.
A day after knocking off USC by three points, Colorado escaped with another three-point victory, defeating the Golden Bears by a score of 59-56.
We're on our way to the semi-finals!! Buffs defeat Cal, 59-56. GO BUFFS!— Colorado Basketball (@CUBuffsMBB) March 13, 2014
Colorado held a nine-point lead at halftime, but Ricky Kreklow quickly lessened that deficit to begin the second half. He sunk two three-pointers in the half's opening minute to make it a three-point game, and the contest remained tight through the ensuing 19 minutes.
As highlighted by the Pac-12 Network Twitter handle during the contest, Colorado obtained an early edge through second-chance points.
After Justin Cobbs converted a three-point play with 2:25 left, both clubs suffered a scoring drought with the score stuck at 56-54 in favor of the Buffaloes. Nobody scored during the next two minutes and 13 seconds.
A huge rejection from Richard Solomon gave California one last scoring opportunity with 23 seconds remaining, but Cobbs couldn't land the equalizing basket. Askia Booker nailed two free throws to ice the game, giving him a team-high 17 points. Cobbs led the way for Cal with 19 points and five assists.
On paper, this clash had the makings of a close battle. Both teams entered with a 10-8 record in conference play, and California squeaked past Colorado in a 66-65 overtime thriller last Saturday.
This tilt nearly produced the same outcome, with Colorado squandering a lead after scoring 31 points in the first half. Their previous affair was tied at 59 entering the bonus period, but Cal finished on the winning side last time.
As a reward for grinding through this tough battle, Colorado gets to battle Arizona tomorrow. While it's an undesirable matchup, an upset could send them on the fast track to a March Madness appearance.
UCLA 82, Oregon 63
The Bruins made an emphatic statement in dominating the Ducks on Thursday. Norman Powell was the only UCLA starter not to score in double digits, but he had nine points to contribute to the cause as the victors shot a lethal 56.6 percent from the floor.
Joseph Young was the only Oregon player to come up big, pouring in a whopping 29 points to lead all scorers, and Mike Moser added eight and a team-high six rebounds, but no Ducks individuals scored any more than that.
Unique 6'9" sophomore point guard Kyle Anderson stuffed the stat sheet for UCLA with 11 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks. Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune was enthralled with the way Anderson was performing:
Anyone who thinks Kyle Anderson isn't the best player in this conference needs to get checked mentally— Tony Jones (@Tjonessltrib) March 14, 2014
Anderson said before the game that he was ready to prove his detractors wrong, per the Los Angeles Times' Chris Foster:
People doubt me all the time because maybe I'm too slow, maybe I'm not athletically gifted. I look forward to proving them wrong...My slow, methodical game wasn't going to work at the college level...I pretty much do whatever I want on the court this season.
The Ducks did nothing to disprove the notion that Anderson could do whatever he wanted, as he and fellow star Jordan Adams (15 points) continued to prove themselves as a formidable duo capable of carrying the Bruins rather deep in the NCAA tournament.
Neither player was on the court for the Bruins' double-overtime loss to Oregon in the last meeting between these two teams. It had to be nice for both to be big contributors in this decisive triumph.
UCLA must continue focusing on the task at hand and gear up for a potential showdown with Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament final. This was a big win to shake off a bad loss to Washington State in the previous contest, and it brought the Ducks' eight-game winning streak to an abrupt halt.
Stanford 79, Arizona State 58
The Cardinal shot 54.9 percent from the floor and used a second-half surge to pull away from Arizona State on Thursday, handing the Sun Devils their third consecutive loss.
It marked the first time ASU had dropped three straight contests all season, per AZCentral.com's Doug Haller:
Final: Stanford 79, Arizona State 58. Sun Devils lose three in a row for first time this season.— Doug Haller (@DougHaller) March 14, 2014
This win puts coach Johnny Dawkins' Stanford squad into the conference tournament semifinals, thanks to an excellent performance by star guard Chasson Randle, who scored a game-high 21 points to lead the charge. It looked as though Stanford fed off playing the previous night, while Arizona State came out flat.
Andy Drukarev of Rivals.com felt that it was one of the best performances by the Cardinal in Dawkins' six seasons at the helm, and likely punched Stanford a ticket to the NCAA tournament:
79-58 final. #Stanford probably clinches NCAA Tourney bid. One of best performances of Dawkins' six-year tenure.— Andy Drukarev (@StanfordRivals) March 14, 2014
TheBootleg.com's David Lombardi feels that the Cardinal still must focus on the matchup ahead, which will be a conference semifinal clash with UCLA. That can help Stanford bolster its Big Dance resume even more and set up a potential final showdown with Arizona:
This is the stepping stone Stanford needed to hit. Now, this touted core of players will have a chance to exorcise next demon: Inconsistency— David Lombardi (@DavidMLombardi) March 14, 2014
The Bruins won handily over Oregon after losing their regular-season finale to Washington State and seemed to be clicking in all phases. It lends to an intriguing battle between two offenses that should have plenty of confidence.
UCLA point guard Kyle Anderson presents matchup problems at 6'9" and Jordan Adams will also have to be contained by the Cardinal. Much of their hopes rest on another strong performance from Randle and similar balance to what Stanford got on Thursday, with four starters in double digits.
Check Pac-12.com for an updated bracket as each game unfolds.
Day 3 Schedule
|Time (ET)||Team 1||Team 2||TV|
|9 p.m.||No. 1 Arizona||No. 5 Colorado||Pac-12 Network|
|11:30 p.m.||No. 2 UCLA||No. 6 Stanford||Fox Sports 1|
We're now down to four entering the tournament's semifinal round. The two games will take place on Friday to determine which two squads face off in Saturday's championship bout.
While Arizona hardly needs the conference title to solidify a luxurious March Madness spot, the remaining three adversaries have to be shaken at the possibility of going through the Wildcats after manhandling Utah.