No. 8 Arizona pulls away from Stanford, reaches Pac-12 semis
LAS VEGAS - Stanford had already beaten No. 8 Arizona in the season's lone meeting, and Wildcats coach Tommy Lloyd was not at all surprised the Cardinal were a tough out Thursday night.
Behind a balanced scoring attack and a late run, the Wildcats finally put away Stanford, winning the Pac-12 Conference Tournament quarterfinal 95-84.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge," Lloyd said. “Their size matches up with us pretty well. They have a tendency to make real timely shots against us, and they just kept doing that over and over and over again. Our guys hung with it.”
Oumar Ballo scored 24 points, Cedric Henderson Jr. had 23 and Azuolas Tubelis added 20 for the Wildcats (26-6). They will play in-state rival Arizona State on Friday night.
Point guard Kerr Kriisa injured a shoulder in the first half, and Lloyd said he didn't expect to have him after intermission, but Kriisa played 15 minutes in the second half.
Lloyd won his 59th game at Arizona, an NCAA record for most victories in a coach's first two seasons. Former North Carolina coach Bill Guthridge held the previous mark.
“To pass Bill Guthridge is even a little extra special honor for me,” Lloyd said. "I thought I was never leaving Gonzaga, and I was totally OK with that. I would tell people jokingly, ‘Hey, I’ll just be the next Bill Guthridge. He was Dean Smith’s right-hand man. I’ll be Mark Few’s right-hand man and maybe get a few years to be the head coach at the end of my career.'"
Lloyd improved his record in Las Vegas with the Wildcats to 7-0, including 6-0 at T-Mobile Arena. They are the defending tournament champions.
Courtney Ramey had 15 points for Arizona, which used a 12-2 run to take a 92-78 lead. The Wildcats shot 64%.
Spencer Jones led Stanford (14-19) with 22 points, Brandon Angel had 19, Michael Jones scored 13 and Harrison Ingram finished with 12.
The Cardinal didn't make it easy on Arizona, which entered the game having lost two of three and had gone 3-3 over its previous six. Plus, Stanford had won three of four entering this game and had claimed the season's only meeting, 88-79 on Feb. 11.
Stanford threatened to sweep the season series, absorbing Arizona runs of 15-2 and 14-3 in the first half and 10-0 in the second to remain in striking distance most of the game.
“That’s just kind of the growth of our team,” Spencer Jones said. “We’ve been talking about that throughout the season, our ability to handle runs like that. Each team’s going to go on a run, and credit to Coach, he really instilled that in us, even though we were failing doing it at the beginning of the season. So we started hitting back and that was the key.”
THE BIG PICTURE
Stanford: Seventh-year coach Jerod Haase will find out soon if he's coming back for an eighth year. He was given a lifeline after last season to return, but the Cardinal have taken a step back from that 16-16 record. Stanford's only postseason appearance under Haase was the 2018 NIT. Haase spoke as if he was looking toward next season, saying, "record-wise it’s not good enough. That’s on me to figure that part out."
Arizona: The Wildcats owned the inside, outscoring Stanford 54-22 from the lane. That strategy defies current wisdom that games are won and lost from the 3-point line. It's not as if Arizona is averse to shooting the 3, but in this game, the Wildcats knew the Cardinal couldn't match up.
Stanford: The season is over.
Arizona: The Wildcats play Arizona State in the semifinals Friday night.
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