Colorado-Arizona Preview


After having the regular season conference title slip out of its grasp over the final month, Arizona will try to make the most of its second chance in the Pac-12 tournament.

Defending champion Colorado might not be so accommodating since it played the 18th-ranked Wildcats tough in two regular season meetings.

Fourth-seeded Arizona looks to begin a march to its first Pac-12 tournament championship since 2002 on Thursday when it takes on Colorado in Las Vegas.

Colorado (21-10) took the first step to what it hopes will be a second consecutive tournament title with a 74-68 victory over 11th-seeded Oregon State in the first round on Wednesday.

Last season's 53-51 win over Arizona in the conference championship assured the sixth-seeded Buffaloes of their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2003.

The Wildcats (24-6) seek a fresh start in their first game of the tournament. Since opening the season 20-2 - including eight wins in its first 10 league games - Arizona fell behind in the Pac-12 race by dropping four of seven down the stretch.

They bounced back with a 73-58 home win over rival Arizona State on Saturday, but missed out on a share of the league crown when UCLA defeated Washington to win the title outright that afternoon.

Nick Johnson led Arizona with 17 points, Kevin Parrom had 13 and Solomon Hill added 12.

The Wildcats hope their defense has returned to form after forcing 17 turnovers and recording 10 steals against the Sun Devils. They allowed just 59.2 points per game and a 38.9 field goal percentage over their 12-0 nonconference start before giving up 66.3 on 43.4 percent shooting during league play.

"We just needed to get back to our defense,'' Hill said. "It was good to really get after them and I think guys are really revved up from it.''

Now, they'll have to figure out a way to clamp down on a Colorado team that burned them for 77.0 points per game on 48.6 percent from the field in two meetings this season.

Arizona stayed unbeaten with a disputed 92-83 home win over the Buffaloes on Jan. 3. Colorado's Sabatino Chen banked in a 3-pointer at the end of regulation in that game, but officials waved it off after reviewing the video. Some replays indicated the shot was taken in time, while others showed it wasn't.

Colorado got a measure of revenge with a 71-58 victory in Boulder on Feb. 14.

Spencer Dinwiddie had 21 points and seven assists in the last meeting and finished with a team-high 20 points in Wednesday's win.

"We came here with one goal in mind and that was to beat OSU and survive and advance,'' Dinwiddie said. "So we did that little first step and we're going to continue to just try to move forward.''

The Buffaloes - who likely need at least one more win to boost their NCAA chances - have shot a combined 19 for 38 from beyond the arc against the Wildcats, who rank last in the Pac-12 in 3-point percentage defense (36.5).

Senior Mark Lyons leads Arizona in scoring at 14.9 per game, but has shot just 8 for 34 (23.5 percent) from the field in his last three. Lyons scored 24 and hit all 10 of his free-throw attempts in the first meeting.

Hill had 15 points in that contest and finished with a team-high 12 in the February loss.

The winner moves on to play either top-seeded UCLA or ninth-seeded Arizona State in Friday's semifinals.