The No. 1 Arizona Wildcats were able to cruise to a 68-59 victory over the No. 16 Weber State Wildcats on Friday in the West region of the round of 64.
Despite 12 turnovers and allowing Weber State to score 20 points via free throws, the Wildcats were propelled by 18 points from sharpshooting junior Nick Johnson, who connected on 50 percent of his shots from the field and posted a 4-of-6 mark from deep.
16-seeds are now 0-118 vs 1-seeds! Arizona defeats Weber State 68-59. #MarchMadness— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) March 21, 2014
Freshman Aaron Gordon chipped in with 16 points, while two others reached double figures.
Arizona bullied Weber down low and tallied 12 blocks, with five apiece from Gordon and sophomore Kaleb Tarczewski.
Senior Davion Berry led the way for Weber with 24 points and an epic late surge, but his slow start and the team's overall 16-of-53 mark from the field were too much to overcome against one of the nation's best.
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Recap and Twitter Reaction
Despite the seed discrepancy, Arizona came in looking to fire on all cylinders—especially after surely witnessing Florida struggle with Albany the day prior.
According to John Marshall of the Associated Press, (h/t Yahoo! Sports), coach Sean Miller said as much on Thursday:
One of the keys for us tomorrow is we can't get caught up in our seed vs. the seed that we're playing. This is a basketball game in the NCAA tournament and what we have talked about a lot is we're trying to be a good team tomorrow.
It took more than two minutes for either team to find the bottom of the net, but Weber State surprisingly struck first—and then some.
Weber State surged to a 7-0 advantage, but perhaps more surprising was how horrific the overall play was. Both teams turned the ball over four times by the 14:40 mark.
That sloppy play certainly continued, but it was Arizona that awoke while Weber State came back to earth in a hurry. After a 4-of-7 start from the field, Weber State then went 1-of-6 up until the 7:43 mark of the first half, by which point Arizona had already taken a 20-15 advantage thanks to an 18-4 run.
Weber's biggest issue was a lack of involvement from Berry, who had averaged 19.1 points per game in the regular season. Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune put it best:
Arizona being very physical/lots of hands with Berry. He's got to get to the line or else ...— Steve Luhm (@sluhm) March 21, 2014
The onslaught continued from that point on, with Arizona getting a surprising six points out of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson off the bench to make it 29-18.
Hollis-Jefferson's dunk in particular was a telling sign of the route the contest was headed in, as captured by Tyler Baldwin of 3TV and Arizona's Twitter account:
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson just put Josh Scott on a Rondae Hollis-Jefferson poster. #APlayersProgram— Arizona Basketball (@APlayersProgram) March 15, 2014
The halftime box score was even more telling, as Weber slumped to a 6-of-24 mark from the field to fall behind 32-20. It was certainly a bad time for Berry and Co. to set a season-low percentage, as Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star notes:
Defense? Weber State's worse game this year was .378 pct. WSU is shooting .250 at half against Arizona— Greg Hansen (@ghansen711) March 21, 2014
It was much of the same in the second half, as Arizona opened up a 21-point advantage by about the halfway mark.
Berry's slump continued, as noted by his 2-of-13 mark from the field, with no Wildcats having reached double figures in the 50-29 rout.
AZCentral.com's Richard Obert colorfully explained the talent discrepancy on the court:
Don't think even Damian Lillard could have helped Weber State against Arizona— Richard Obert (@azc_obert) March 21, 2014
Weber was able to pull back within 11 by the six-minute mark thanks to 10 total points from freshman Richaud Gittens off the bench.
Berry then woke up.
Better late than never, Berry scored seven of his team's next nine points to bring the score to 60-51 before Johnson hit another clutch three-pointer to give Arizona some breathing room.
Davion Berry leads the Wildcats with 19 points. 10-10 from the FT line. Bolomboy has 11 pts., 15 rebs. Gittens has 12. UA up 63-51 - 3:43.— Weber State Wildcats (@weberstate) March 21, 2014
Berry hit another shot from long range in response to make it 10 of his team's last 12, but Arizona was yet again able to distance itself while killing the clock.
Weber State heads home with a great experience to build on for next season—especially taking into account the strong performance by the freshman Gittens, who will have to help replace Berry.
Arizona advances with a full head of steam into what may very well be one of the 2014 tournament's upset specials, as either No. 8 Gonzaga or No. 9 Oklahoma State will meet the Wildcats in the round of 32.