The Arizona Wildcats advanced to their third Sweet Sixteen in as many seasons by doing what’s made them successful all year: playing behind the 3-point line and knocking down shots from beyond the arc.
With the 10th-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes implementing a zone defense to disrupt the Wildcats’ typically dominant inside game, Arizona used six 3-point baskets in the second half, including four from Gabe York, to move into the Round of 16 with a 73-58 win over OSU on Saturday in Portland, Oregon.
Arizona will face No. 6 seed Xavier on Thursday. UA coach Sean Miller was the head coach at Xavier from 2004-09.
Nursing a 26-25 halftime lead, UA opened things up in the second half with back-to-back triples from York to help the Wildcats take a 41-34 lead with 15 minutes to play.
The junior guard knocked down two more 3-pointers later in the half to help Arizona (33-3) solve Ohio State’s 2-3 zone defense and earn some payback for 2013’s 73-70 loss to the Buckeyes in the Sweet 16.
York’s 19 points were a season-high, besting his 18-point performance in a win over Gardner-Webb on Dec. 2.
That’s not to say Arizona didn’t flex its muscles in the paint. The Wildcats out-rebounded Ohio State (24-11) 43-26 for the game, including 18-7 on the offensive glass.
You know you’re having a good night on the boards when you’re able to grab one while sitting, as freshman forward Stanley Johnson did here.
And thanks to some stifling defense by a pair of Pac-12 All-Defensive Team members, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and T.J. McConnell, UA limited Ohio State freshman phenom D’Angelo Russell to nine points on 3-of-19 shooting from the floor. Russell came in averaging nearly 20 points per game.
Here’s some more knowledge on how the Wildcats upended the Buckeyes on Saturday, by the numbers.
Arizona forward Brandon Ashley had to watch the last several minutes of Saturday’s game from the bench after picking up his fifth foul with 5:33 to play. Fortunately, the Wildcats already had the game well in hand.
6 (part I)
Russell had an awful night from the field, but he contributed in other ways for the Buckeyes. He added seven points and six assists, including this ridiculous dime in the first half.
6 (part II)
Each of Miller’s last six NCAA Tournament teams have advanced to the Sweet 16 — four at Arizona and two at Xavier.
Trailing 23-17 late in the first half, Arizona went on a 9-2 run to close the half behind five points from Ashley.
Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson led the way in Arizona’s win over Texas Southern on Thursday with a combined 45 points on 15-of-20 shooting from the floor (75 percent). On Saturday, the Wildcats won in spite of their efforts on offense: The forwards combined to shoot 4-of-24 from the floor (16.7 percent) and score a total of 15 points.
But like Russell, Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson helped out in other ways. They grabbed 10 rebounds apiece, and Hollis-Jefferson contributed five assists, including this behind-the-back pass in the first half.
McConnell stuffed the stat sheet for the Wildcats on Saturday. The senior point guard scored 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field while adding six rebounds, six assists and five steals.
McConnell became the first Pac-12 player with at least 15 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals in an NCAA Tournament game since Jason Kidd did it for Cal in 1993.
Arizona continued its outstanding free-throw shooting of late, going 20-of-24 (83.3 percent) from the line Saturday. The Wildcats went 24-of-27 (88.9 percent) from the stripe in Thursday’s win over Texas Southern.