San Diego State fell just short of its first Elite Eight Thursday in Anaheim, as Arizona finally outpaced the Aztecs late, winning 70-64.
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The team had won eight of its last nine going into the matchup against the heavily favored Wildcats, and had a blazing first half, inspiring a crowd that was firmly behind the Aztecs in the Honda Center.
Arizona will meet Wisconsin Saturday in the west region final. Second-seed Wisconsin topped Baylor 69-52.
After trailing most of the game, Arizona went ahead 50-49 with about 7 minutes remaining. San Diego State shut down Pac-12 Player of the Year Nick Johnson until well into the second half, when he scored off an Aztec turnover, making it 56-51 as part of a 10-2 Arizona run.
Johnson then went on a tear, scoring 15 in the waning minutes.
Dwayne Polee and Xavier Thames hit three-pointers late to pull close after the Wildcats had extended the lead, but it was not enough.
The teams were tied 17-17, with 9:45 left in the first half when Josh Davis, despite normally being a less than 50-percent free-throw shooter, nailed two. Wildcat Aaron Gordon briefly put Arizona ahead, before Thames took back the lead and drew a foul for a three-point play.
Polee hyped up the Aztec partisans with a slam dunk, on the way to a 32-24 lead, San Diego State’s longest of the half. But Arizona scored four answered points before time ran out, and could have had three more, but Johnson’s trey fell in just after the buzzer.
The South region final will be a Florida and Dayton matchup, following Florida’s defeat of UCLA and Dayton’s win over Stanford.
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