Pac-12 Tournament: Quarterfinals
Any time you get to tournament play anything and everything can happen. With the top four seeds taking the floor today fans were looking for the strange to happen. Did it? Let’s take a look at the quarterfinal action.
Arizona State vs Oregon
This figured to be an easy for the Oregon Ducks, but the Sun Devils came with some fight in their bones. Despite playing the night before Arizona State played with some heart and determination in the first half.
Arizona State swingman, Torian Graham led all players with 16 points at halftime. He found his range early and often to help keep the Sun Devils in the game.
Oregon led 34-31 at half.
Somehow, someway, the Ducks had to get their main man Dillon Brooks going. He had a real quiet 11 points in the first half.
Arizona State had to continue their hot shooting to have any shot at dethroning the top seeded Ducks.
Instead of the Ducks flying south for the winter, the Sun Devil shooting went south.
The second half was all Oregon.
Oregon head coach Dana Altman had to readjust his strategy and whatever adjustment he made the players made it happen. Dillon Brooks got into the act, taking the ball to the basket and drawing fouls. By the end of the game Brooks had 22 points and seven rebounds.
Oregon guard, Tyler Dorsey, also decided to get into the act and ended up having a solid 21 point, nine rebound effort.
Arizona State had no answer for anything in the second half. The Sun Devils shot 24% in the second half and with no inside presence, the game was a wrap as soon as the Ducks extended the lead to double digits.
The Ducks started slow, but it’s about how you finish. Ducks had that covered today.
Final Score: Oregon 80 Arizona State 57
California vs Utah
Coming into this game most fans would throw money down on the Utes to win. Most fans do not include California Golden Bear fans.
Utah was one of the top four seeds that got to sit back and watch the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament. Maybe, the Utes got too much rest.
The Utah Utes came out of the gate rather passive. Not sure of the reasoning why they would come out slow. Would the extra day off play a factor in the success or demise of their tournament chances?
Kyle Kuzma, Utah Ute, forward did what he could to inspire his team in the first half by scoring 13 points in the first half. Nobody else for the Utes was in double-figures.
At the half the game was knotted up at 30-30 and this had the feeling of an upset.
Seeing that we are in Las Vegas for the Pac-12 tournament I should have put some money down on these California Golden Bears.
The second half the Utes still looked like they were stuck in cement. The lead for California got to 10 -12 points and it seemed like that would be the final margin with the upset.
Not so fast my friends as Lee Corso would say.
When all seemed lost with Utah fans the Utes decided to make things interesting with a huge final push in the final minutes. The game was coming down to possessions and who was going to make their free throws.
California took on the challenge and may have learned something about themselves in the process.
In the end, California behind the solid play of Charlie Moore and Jabari Bird who combined to score 47 points won the game 78-75. The upset was complete and the chances of the Utah Utes making the NCAA Tournament went down the drain as well.
Arizona vs Colorado
I am not sure if the whole town of Tucson made the trip up to Las Vegas, but it certainly appeared that way. The chants of U-of-A in the T-Mobile Arena were deafening and the game wasn’t even underway.
As the game got started, Arizona clearly had its hands full with Colorado’s point guard Derrick White. This young kid can certainly play. He made life tough on whoever was guarding him and ended up with 15 first half points which led all players in the first half.
The thing that struck me in the first half of this game was Colorado was hanging around on the second seeded team in the tournament. The Buffaloes were taking a page out of the Sun Devil and California playbook. The longer you hang around a higher seeded team, the better chance you have at making the plays to win the game.
Arizona guard, Allonzo Trier, paced the Wildcats with 12 first half points. Wildcat center/forward, Lauri Markkanen, followed with seven points.
The Wildcats were doing everything they could to keep the Buffaloes from pulling a major upset. Part of the reason Colorado stayed within striking distance was the fact the Buffs were taking care of ball. The Buffaloes only had two turnovers in the first half. The other reason for the close score was that Colorado was not getting beat on the boards that bad. The Wildcats only had a three rebound advantage in the first half.
Arizona went into the half up by one point at 38-37.
The second half was a different story. Arizona flexed its top 10 muscle.
Instead of having Allonzo Trier carry the load for the Cats, the rest of the team decided to get in on the fun.
Trier had 19, Markkanen had 20, Dusan Ristic had 15, Rawle Alkins had 15, and Kadeem Allen added 13. Balanced scoring like that adds up to a lopsided win for the Arizona Wildcats.
The Cats went onto win this game 92-78.
UCLA vs USC
A rivalry game as a tournament game. Could Pac-12 fans be any luckier? I don’t think so.
The Trojans started off extremely slow and their crosstown rival Bruins took full advantage of that issue. UCLA built a lead of 14 points and it seemed like a win was all, but guaranteed for the number three ranked team in the nation.
If there was anything learned from all the games on Thursday night in Las Vegas it was that no team was guaranteed anything. Arizona State gave the Ducks problems, California upset Utah, Arizona had to work to get by Colorado, and the Trojans were attempting to ruin the Bruins dreams of a Pac-12 Tournament title.
The Trojans started getting stops and were converting those stops into points for themselves. Slowly, but surely, behind 18 points from Jordan McLaughlin and 17 points from Elijah Stewart the Trojans were making interesting down the stretch.
Both McLaughlin and Stewart missed shots in the paint as the clock ran down on the Trojans.
Bennie Boatwright, forward for the Trojans finished up with 11 points, but was also 3 for 11 from the field. He also missed a game tying shot at the buzzer to seal USC’s fate.
UCLA survived an up and down performance from Pac-12 Conference Freshman of the Year, Lonzo Ball. Ball had glimpses of what make him a high NBA Draft Pick. He also glimpses of head scratching plays that made him look like a regular freshman basketball player.
T. J. Leaf scored 14 points in his return from injury and his fellow big man Thomas Welsh put in a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.
With the win 76-74, UCLA won its 10 straight game and gets a date with the Arizona Wildcats on Friday night.