'Air Zona' saves Christmas for No. 3 Wildcats - Tucson Local Media: UA Wildcats

'Air Zona' saves Christmas for No. 3 Wildcats

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 11:03 am

The sophomore appropriately dubbed "Air Zona" saved Christmas and an unbeaten record for third-ranked Arizona on Tuesday night.

Nick Johnson flew in for a game-saving block in the final seconds of the Wildcats' thrilling 68-67 win over No. 17 San Diego State in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.

"It took two great plays on both offense and defense to secure the win," Wildcats head coach Sean Miller said. "And we made both of them."

The Wildcats (12-0) became the first Arizona team to win its first 12 games since the 1987-88 season - the same year the program appeared in its first-ever Final Four.

And this game had a March Madness feel after a slow start.

After a pair of Mark Lyons free throws gave the Wildcats the lead with 13.1 seconds to play, the Aztecs (11-2) set up what appeared to be a perfectly executed possession.

Chase Tapley dribbled from the top of the 3-point line to the basket without much resistance. But his potential game-winning layup was swatted away by Johnson with 3.5 seconds to play.

"He made one hell of a play," Tapley said. "I just have to tip my hat off to him. I didn't even know he was around. He just came out of nowhere. I'm thinking the game is over. The next thing you know, the ball is going off the backboard."

Added Johnson: "My instincts took over."

Marco Garcia--USA TODAY Sports

Arizona senior forward Solomon Hill coasts in for a layup Tuesday against San Diego State during the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.

In the game's final 10:45, no team had a lead larger than two points. In that span there were nine ties and 10 lead changes.

With Lyons in foul trouble, fellow senior Solomon Hill stepped up to score a game-high 21 points and took home the tournament's most valuable player honor. Kevin Parrom added 17 off the bench for the Wildcats, who shot just 37.3 percent.

Tapley netted 19 in the loss, which snapped SDSU's 11-game winning streak.

"It hurts," SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said. "It's hard when you have a chance to win a championship, have a shot to beat an undefeated team, and you don't quite get it done, and you think you're going to do it right until the very last play of the game. It hurts badly."

Trailing by just two despite careless ball handling and a goose egg from its star, SDSU quickly knotted the game at 29 as Jamaal Franklin got on the scoreboard. That sparked a 14-4 run - including the first eight points - and, in the process, Lyons picked up his third foul with less than three minutes gone by in the second half.

In just four minutes, the Aztecs shifted the momentum and took a 41-33 lead on Xavier Thames' layup.

Lyons then picked up his fourth foul, but Arizona still managed to answer with a run of its own as a pair of Hill free throws put the team back in front, 51-50, with 10:16 remaining.

Both teams started the game tight, however, missing on 12 of the game's 13 attempts - including all seven from SDSU. In addition to a few missed dunks, the jump shots never had much of a chance, drawing nothing but glass in several cases.

But the Parrom eventually settled the Wildcats down with five quick points off the bench, engineering a seven-point lead by the midway point of the half.

Hill eventually got in on the action, pacing the team with 10 first-half points. But the 'Cats could never pull away despite 11 Aztecs turnovers and a scoreless first half from Franklin, the team's leading scorer.

A Dwayne Polee layup with 10:43 to play cut the deficit to 16-13, and the margin never grew larger than six the rest of the half.

UA did not convert a field goal over the final 4:36 and scored just three points in that span, as SDSU pulled to within 29-27 at the break.

(Editor's Note: Tracy McDannald is the senior editor for GOAZCATS.com. Get all your wildcats' news at www.goazcats.com.)

© 2016 Tucson Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More about

More about

More about

Welcome to the discussion.

Oro Valley Audiology

Oro Valley AudiologyAddress: 2542 E Vistoso Commerce Loop Rd, Oro Valley, AZ 85755Phone:(520) ...

HS Schedule


Aug. 21

Hamilton @ Ironwood Ridge

Rio Rico @ Marana

Catalina Foothills @ Desert Edge

Aug. 28

CDO @ Gilbert

Mountain View @ La Joya Community

Pueblo @ Catalina Foothills

Pusch Ridge @ Bisbee

Sep. 4

CDO @ Tucson High Magnet School

Westwood @ Ironwood Ridge

Horizon @ Mountain View

Marana @ Pueblo

Benson @ Pusch Ridge

Catalina Foothills @ Cienega

Sep. 11

CDO @ Sahuaro

Salpointe @Ironwood Ridge

Mountain View @ Sunnyside

Arcadia @ Marana

McClintock @ Catalina Foothills

Pusch Ridge @ Combs

Sep. 18

Cienega @ CDO

Ironwood Ridge @ Tucson High

Buena @ Mountain View

Marana @ Tempe

Catalina Foothills @ Rincon/University

Pusch Ridge @ Amphi

Sep. 25

Buena @ CDO

Sahuaro @ Ironwood Ridge

Mountain View at Cienega

Marana @ Catalina Foothills

Cholla @ Pusch Ridge

Oct. 2

CDO @ Ironwood Ridge

Queen Creek @ Mountain View

Nogales @ Marana

Catalina Foothills @ Safford

Sahuarita @ Pusch Ridge

Oct. 9

Poston Butte @ CDO

Ironwood Ridge @ Queen Creek

Shadow Ridge @ Mountain View

Marana @ Desert View

Nogales @ Catalina Foothills

Pusch Ridge @ Flowing Wells

Oct 16

CDO @ Queen Creek

Ironwood Ridge @ Marcos de Niza

Mountain View @ Poston Butte

Rincon/University @ Marana

Catalina Foothills @ Sabino

Pueblo @ Pusch Ridge

Oct. 23

Mountain View @ CDO

Poston Butte @ Ironwood Ridge

Marana @ Safford

Desert View @ Catalina Foothills

Walden Grove @ Pusch Ridge

Oct. 30

CDO @ Campo Verde 

Ironwood Ridge @ Mountain View

Sabino @ Marana

Pusch Ridge @ Rio Rico

Clutch - X-Ray Visions

More Featured Videos

Follow us on Facebook