No. 8-ranked Arizona will get a chance to avenge a recent loss when it begins play in the Pac-12 tournament with a quarterfinal matchup against Stanford on Thursday night in Las Vegas.
The 10th-seeded Cardinal (14-18) advanced Wednesday night with a 73-62 victory over seventh-seeded Utah, controlling the game from start to finish. Stanford, which lost its first seven games of the Pac-12 season, has gone 9-6 over its past 15 outings.
“We were 0-7, terrible start, and we didn’t give up. We just kept working,” said sophomore Harrison Ingram. “I don’t think any team in the country wants to play us.”
Stanford’s best victory of the season came Feb. 11 against then-No. 4 Arizona. The Cardinal shot a stunning 60.7 percent from the field in an 88-79 victory, as Michael O’Connell scored 22 points to lead five players in double-figure scoring, including Spencer Jones, who had all 18 of his points in the second half.
Arizona star Azuolas Tubelis battled foul trouble and was a non-factor with four points and no rebounds in 17 minutes.
“We’ll learn from Stanford,” Tubelis said. “We always respond after our losses.”
The second-seeded Wildcats (25-6) have lost two of their past three games, including at UCLA in the regular-season finale on Saturday, but they still have not lost consecutive games under Tommy Lloyd, who is 58-10 in his second season.
Stanford and Arizona met only once in the regular season. The Wildcats are 3-0 in rematches against teams that beat them earlier in the season (Utah, Washington State, Oregon).
Thursday’s matchup will be tricky, though. The Cardinal is a big, physical team that outrebounded Arizona 34-26 in the first meeting, also holding a 42-24 edge in points in the paint.
“We are playing very good basketball together, which is the key. Most of our shots are wide open,” said forward Brandon Angel, who had his first double-double of the season (16 points, 12 rebounds) in Wednesday’s win. “We’re have been building for quite some time to this moment. We’re playing like the team we felt we should be all season.”
Arizona finished four games behind UCLA in the regular-season standings, and the Bruins won the majority of the individual awards, as voted on by the league coaches. UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. beat out Tubelis for Player of the Year honors despite Tubelis becoming the seventh player in conference history to lead the league in scoring (19.9) and rebounding (9.2).
Arizona fans might also think Kerr Kriisa was snubbed by the league coaches. He leads the Pac-12 in assists (5.4), shoots 38.2 percent from 3-point range (79 of 207) and averages 10.7 points per game. He was not even among those earning honorable mention after 15 players were chosen to the first and second teams.
Lloyd said he’s not concerned with any of that – and that also goes for how the Pac-12 tournament might influence his team’s seeding and destination for the NCAA Tournament.
“If you’re worried about that stuff after 31 games in the regular season, then I think you’re focused on the wrong things,” Lloyd said. “I think it is about getting your team to be cohesive, to show their trust in each other, show their trust in the system. And then you go out in these tournaments and let it rip.”
–Field Level Media