Arizona was able to beat Xavier 68-60 to advance to the Elite Eight. Read on to find out how Arizona did it, who the player of the game was and more.
Arizona had to battle for 40 minutes, but eventually came away with a 68-60 win over Xavier. Here’s a closer look at what happened:
Arizona Co-Players of the Game:
T.J. McConnell – He certainly didn't have the best game of his life, but McConnell was clutch down the stretch as the Wildcats finally figured out the Xavier zone. The senior finished with 17 points and five assists, also adding seven rebounds in the game. McConnell hit a critical three pointer that put the first nail into the Musketeers' coffin and was instrumental in the late come from behind win.
Kaleb Tarczewksi - The first half of this game could have come back to haunt the center had Arizona lost. He was completely dominated by Matt Stainbrook, but to his credit, Tarczewski fought back and shut down the big man in the second half. Arizona's center also found a way to finish with a double-double consisting of 12 points and 12 rebounds in the win.
Leading 10-6 with 14 minutes left in the first half, Arizona took a major blow with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson suffering an apparent knee injury. He left to the locker room for a few minutes, but his absence killed any momentum the Wildcats had.
The Wildcats missed their last four field goals of the first half and 9 of the last 11, while failing to score in the final 3:51 before halftime. That stretch allowed Xavier to get some momentum and tie the game as the teams headed to the locker room.
During the first four minutes of the second half, Kaleb Tarczewksi picked up his second and third fouls on cheap calls. They forced him to the bench and the Wildcats went small. That seemed to work, as Arizona was able to get two big threes from Gabe York to keep the game close, but Matt Stainbrook continued to be too much, scoring at will for a majority of the half and the Wildcats had no answer.
At the ten minute mark of the second half, T.J. McConnell hit a jumper from the free throw line that gave the Wildcats a 47-46 lead. It didn't last, as Xavier answered with a three-point play and an easy layup to take a 51-47 lead into the final minutes of the night.
Arizona showed its resiliency and never gave up, going on a 6-0 run with seven minutes remaining in the game to take a 55-53 lead over Xavier. The Musketeers got a free throw to go down, but McConnell answered with a huge long ball that put Arizona up by four.
The Wildcats led by seven with just under two minutes left in the game when Xavier made things interesting with Myles Davis hitting a three ball to cut the lead to four. Xavier could not hit any more shots and the Wildcats were able to get two pairs of free throws to seal the game.
As the seconds wound down, Arizona clung to an eight point lead and continued to march on into the Elite Eight.
Stats of the Night:
11:41 - Arizona got completely dominated in the paint for most of the game. Matt Stainbrook was the fuel to Xavier's fire and the Wildcats had no answer for him in the first half and part of the second half. The center finished with 17 points, but did not have a field goal in the final 11:41 of the game. To top it off for the Musketeers, Arizona's defense held Xavier to just one field goal in the final 9:03 of the game.
That was one brutal game for anyone watching. Arizona played pretty awful in the first half and even took most of the second half, but enough players did what needed to be done to keep the Wildcats in the game until T.J. McConnell finally got going and broke down the Musketeers' 1-3-1 zone.
The Wildcats did what they have done for a majority of the season and wore down the opponent. When it came down to crunch time, Arizona was ready to go and dismantled Xavier in the final minutes of the game. Win and advance.
Sean Miller Quotable:
"He has the ability to take the big shot and make it," Miller said of McConnell. "That's one of the reasons we're here today."
"In the first half, you could have said I was practically playing for Xavier, how many times I passed them the ball," McConnell said. "I couldn't hit water if I fell out of a boat from (3-point range). But we kept fighting."