03/27 00:09 CDT Arizona outlasts Xavier 68-60 to reach West region finals
Arizona outlasts Xavier 68-60 to reach West region finals
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) --- Just when Arizona appeared to be in serious trouble
against underdog Xavier, T.J. McConnell sparked his Wildcats back to the brink
of the Final Four.
McConnell scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half, freshman Stanley
Johnson added 12 points, and second-seeded Arizona made a dominant late rally
for a 68-60 victory over sixth-seeded Xavier in the West Regional semifinals on
Kaleb Tarczewski had 12 points and 12 rebounds as the Wildcats (34-3) weathered
a major scare from the Musketeers (23-14) and clamped down defensively during a
game-ending 19-7 run.
With its third Elite Eight berth in five years, Arizona gets another shot its
first Final Four under coach Sean Miller, who led Xavier for five years until
The Wildcats will face top-seeded Wisconsin (34-3) on Saturday at Staples
Center in a rematch of last season's West final.
"It's almost as if we had a summer to think about it, and we have to somehow
make that to our advantage," Miller said.
Matt Stainbrook had 17 points and 10 rebounds in his final game for Xavier,
which fell just short of its first trip to the Elite Eight since 2008. Those
Musketeers were coached by Miller and assistant Chris Mack, who replaced his
With its 14th straight victory, Arizona has another chance to reach its first
the Final Four since 2001 --- but only after getting a late boost from
McConnell, the senior who turned 23 on Wednesday. The point guard is Miller's
surrogate on the court, and he made all the right moves down the stretch.
Xavier moved ahead early in the second half and led 53-49 with seven minutes
remaining --- but with their season in danger, the Wildcats finally went to
Arizona's sizable crowd awoke as the Wildcats made an 11-2 run that included a
3-pointer from McConnell with 4:18 to play. Even more importantly, Arizona held
the Musketeers without a field goal for an 8:35 stretch in the final minutes
after getting shredded on the interior earlier in the game.
Johnson, the Orange County product likely headed to the NBA after one season at
Arizona, managed just two points after halftime. The Wildcats' upperclassmen
took charge late, with McConnell and Tarczewski scoring the biggest points and
leading the defensive effort.
Arizona largely shut down Stainbrook, the Musketeers' glasses-wearing,
Uber-driving MBA student and leading scorer. He made just one field goal after
halftime, part of their 9-for-23 performance from the field.
The game was a bittersweet reunion for Miller, who reluctantly left Xavier for
a bigger job at Arizona. At Miller's urging, the Musketeers gave the job to
Mack, who has led Xavier to three Sweet 16 berths during six winning seasons
while navigating the school's move to the Big East.
After an even first half, the game appeared to be bending toward Xavier, which
took a lead early in the second. The Musketeers even managed to get points on a
possession featuring two air-balled 3-point shots, when Stainbrook caught the
second miss and got fouled.
Neither team made a major move in the first half, which ended in a 28-28 tie.
Although Johnson scored 10 points, his four fellow Arizona starters were a
combined 5 for 19, and the Wildcats couldn't score in the final 3:47.
Xavier appeared to be thoroughly unintimidated by the enormity of the stage,
comfortably keeping pace with 10 points from Stainbrook and solid interior
play. Only an 0-for-7 effort on 3-pointers prevented the Musketeers from taking
a halftime lead.
Xavier: The Musketeers are just one of nine teams with five Sweet 16
appearances in the last eight years. ... The schools had never met before.
Arizona: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a sophomore starter on the wing and Arizona's
third-leading scorer, fell to the court in obvious pain just over 6 minutes
into the first half. Although the hushed crowd feared the worst, he eventually
walked to the locker room with no assistance and returned to the game. ... The
Pac-12's regular-season and tournament champions have lost just three games by
a combined nine points this season.
Xavier: Plan for a promising next season without top scorer Stainbrook.
Arizona: Remember how they stopped Stainbrook in the second half and apply it
to Wisconsin 7-footer Frank Kaminsky.