Arizona Wildcats look for third win over Colorado
LAS VEGAS — Pac-12 Conference tournament No. 1 seed Arizona men’s basketball team will face off against No. 5 Colorado in the semifinals Friday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. and the game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
Arizona won Thursday’s first game against eighth-seeded Utah in dominating fashion, routing the Utes by a score of 71-39 and giving the starters some rest in the process. As one of the top four teams, the UA enjoyed a first round bye and did not have to play on Wednesday, unlike Colorado.
Colorado, fresh off of a 59-56 victory over No. 4 California, has defeated the No. 12 USC Trojans and the Golden Bears in the tournament.
Arizona fans flocked to Las Vegas to cheer on their team, creating a familiar environment for the Wildcats. Head coach Sean Miller said that the crowd plays a huge part in the UA’s momentum.
After grabbing a rebound, Colorado junior guard Askia Booker (0) dribbles down the court during Colorado's 59-56 victory against California in the quarter finals of the Pac-12 Tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Colorado advances to the semifinals and plays Arizona Friday. Booker averaged 10.5 points against the Wildcats this year.
“Knowing we have as many fans who have traveled the way we have to Vegas, you almost feel like it’s your obligation to perform well and advance for them, for their efforts,” Miller said. “Just hearing our crowd [on Thursday], I would imagine it’s only going to pick up moving toward [Friday].”
Arizona swept Colorado in its two conference matchups this year. In Arizona’s first contest against CU in Tucson, the UA struggled to shoot from the perimeter and squandered a 14-point lead, allowing Colorado to close the gap.
The Wildcats won in Boulder, Colo., in a blowout that boosted Arizona’s confidence on the road.
After the Wildcats’ double-overtime loss to ASU the week before, Arizona rebounded to defeat the Buffaloes in Boulder for the first time since 1973.
“One of the things that gives us confidence in this setting is our success away from home and [the] fact that we have been battle-tested,” Miller said. “We’re going to have our hands full, but we’re just excited that we are one of the four teams remaining in the tournament.”
What to watch for:
Colorado’s sophomore forwards Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson have given Arizona trouble before this season. In the Buffaloes’ first contest against the Wildcats, Johnson and Scott combined for 36 points and 13 rebounds.
Junior guard Askia Booker is averaging 10.5 points, 3.5 assists and 3.5 boards per game this year against the UA. Over his first two games in this year’s Pac-12 tournament, Booker averaged 19 points and 3.5 assists per contest. In the quarterfinals against California, he put together a 17-point performance to accompany three assists and three rebounds.
In the Buffaloes’ win over the Golden Bears, Johnson contributed 10 points and eight boards. Johnson is averaging 13 points and four rebounds per game against the Wildcats this season.
Scott added 11 points, six rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal against Cal. This year, he has been one of Colorado’s most successful players against the UA and is averaging 16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game against the Wildcats.
“[Colorado] is a great team,” starting center Kaleb Tarczewski said. “When they start rolling, they’re tough to stop. They have a great scorer in Josh Scott, and Askia Booker is coming off of a crazy Pac. So, we are definitely going to have to block them out on defense tomorrow and focus tonight on what we’re going to have to do to win.”
–Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17