Arizona denies Colorado
LAS VEGAS — With about 13 minutes left in the game Arizona’s Aaron Gordon gave Colorado the knock out blow.
Gordon delivered a block that would be the shinning highlight in the Wildcats’ 63-43 victory over the Buffaloes’ in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament Friday night.
“I was help side,” Gordon said. “All I could do was contest the shot.”
Arizona freshman forward Aaron Gordon (11) looks at Colorado sophomore forward Xavier Johnson (2) after Gordon blocked Johnson's shot during the first semifinal of the Pac-12 Tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Friday. Arizona lead 63-43 against Colorado and advances to the Finals on Saturday at 3 p.m. against UCLA.
Gordon’s block on Colorado’s Xavier Johnson would start a 11-0 run by Arizona.
A game that was tightly contested to start was blown open by the Wildcats in the second half. Arizona outscored the Buffaloes 36-19 in the second half.
Transition alley-oops by Nick Johnson and Gordon combined with in your face slams by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson were what led up to Gordon’s block, which is when Colorado had to raise the white flag.
“That was a big-time block,” Buffaloes’ head coach Tad Boyle said. “One thing about Arizona is you better match their physicality, because they’re a very physical team.”
The Wildcats’ physicality on defense carried them in the second half of Friday’s game. A game that Arizona head coach Sean Miller called “a tale of two halves,” the Wildcats forced tough shots and out rebounded the Buffaloes 41-25.
Double teams on Colorado’s second leading scorer, forward Josh Scott, forced him to pass out of the post. Scott, who normally averages just over 14 points per game was held to four Friday night.
“When the other team starts taking bad shots and aren’t getting good looks or are turning the ball over you know the momentum is on your side,” Arizona’s Gabe York said.
Even when the Wildcats’ guards would break, the help side defense was there to stop Colorado at the rim.
“I got beat and he was there to help me,” Nick Johnson said of Gordon’s block. “That’s what great defenses do. I got beat a couple times and he was there to help me.”
Arizona’s defense is predicated on helping. The Wildcats run a pack line defense, where all five defenders are guarding the man with the ball. So when one man gets beat there’s another one there to pick him up.
Gordon’s block was a perfect example of that working in motion.
Even when Colorado was able to get shots off, Arizona’s defensive philosophy limited the Buffaloes’ second chance opportunities.
Miller credited his players after the game for not taking a play off and working hard on every single defensive possession.
“The talent that we have plus the willingness and probably the fact that we were solid in what we do,” Miller said is the reason the Wildcats’ defense works. “You know, people in the past would criticize a coach like me for not playing zone. Well, if you put all the eggs in one basketball, you have a chance to be great.”
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