ARIZONA BASKETBALL

Arizona Wildcats hold on to beat Dayton in NCAA Tournament

Mar 23, 2024, 10:44 AM | Updated: 12:29 pm

(L-R) Caleb Love #2, Keshad Johnson #16, Oumar Ballo #11, and Jaden Bradley #0 of the Arizona Wildc...

(L-R) Caleb Love #2, Keshad Johnson #16, Oumar Ballo #11, and Jaden Bradley #0 of the Arizona Wildcats look on as Pelle Larsson #3 (not pictured) shoots free throws against the Dayton Flyers during the second half in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Delta Center on March 23, 2024 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Arizona survived a couple surges from Dayton to beat the Flyers 78-68 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City on Saturday.

Arizona led by as many as 17 in the first half before Dayton went on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to seven at the break. Sophomore guard Jaden Bradley’s second-half performance off the bench helped power the Wildcats to victory.

Arizona advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years and will play in Los Angeles on Thursday against either Baylor or Clemson.

The Wildcats finished the game with 23 bench points behind 12 from Bradley. The sophomore guard also had four rebounds, two assists, three blocks and three steals. Nine of Bradley’s points came in the second half.

Dayton only had two points off the bench.

Seven of Arizona’s bench points came when the Wildcats went on an 11-3 run to take a 20-11 lead with 10:28 left in the first half. The Wildcats held Dayton without a field goal for more than four minutes during that stretch.

Dayton’s Kobe Elvis cut Arizona’s lead to four with 15:08 remaining in the second half before a Keshad Johnson dunk put the Wildcats back up by six. Johnson’s dunk ended a stretch where Arizona missed six consecutive looks. The Wildcats started the second half 2-for-8 from the field with all five points coming from Johnson. The senior forward had nine points in the second half and finished with 13 overall.

Dayton’s Koby Brea, who had five 3-pointers on Thursday, added four more on Saturday. The A-10 Sixth Man of the Year leads the nation by shooting 49.7% from behind the arc. Brea hit his fourth 3-pointer to cut Arizona’s lead to three with 11:40 left in the game. Caleb Love answered on the other end with a jumper to put the Wildcats back up by six with 11:24 remaining.

The Flyers are used to mounting comebacks. They overcame a 17-point deficit with 7:39 left on Thursday to beat Nevada 63-60. The Flyers also beat LSU 70-67 in November after overcoming a 15-point deficit. Dayton also trailed VCU by 17 in the first half of the team’s final regular season game before coming back to beat the Rams 91-86 in overtime.

But Saturday was a different story.

The Wildcats went on a 10-0 run powered by 3-pointers from Pelle Larsson and Bradley to go back up by 15 with 6:54 left.

Dayton went on a 6-0 run to cut the Wildcats lead down to single digits with 5:27 remaining but the Wildcats were able to see out the rest of the game.

Arizona shot 64% in the first half as Love led the way for the Wildcats with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting. Love cooled off and forced shots in the second half. He finished the game with 19 points, shooting 6-for-15 from the field (after going 5-for-7 in the first half) and 3-for-8 from behind the arc. The 2023-24 Pac-12 Player of the Year also added a block, a steal, five assists and three rebounds. The Wildcats had 17 assists on 28 made field goals.

The Wildcats finished 52.8% from the field and 44.4% from 3-point range while the Flyers shot 40.7% from the field and 29.2% from 3-point range.

Love is now the only active player with at least 150 career points in the NCAA Tournament.

Turnovers were a problem for Tommy Lloyd’s team early. Arizona had four turnovers in the first five minutes and finished the game with 15 turnovers.

Valley native DaRon Holmes II continued to impress in the tournament. The former Millennium High School and AZ Compass Prep star had 23 points on 8-for-17 shooting. He was also 2-for-4 from behind the arc.

Only three times this year has he failed to score in double figures and now has 14 consecutive games with at least 10 points.

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