ANAHEIM, Calif. — Nick Johnson put an awful first half behind him and came up big for Arizona in the final 2:45.
The Pac-12 player of the year scored all of his 15 points over that span after missing his first 10 shots, and helped Arizona hold off San Diego State 70-64 on Thursday night to reach the final eight of the NCAA tournament.
“When I hit one shot it just started to feel a little bit better,” he said. “I just kept on hitting shots.”
Mostly, Johnson hit free throws, making all 10 of his attempts to go with a field goal and a 3-pointer after the Aztecs shut him down for the first 37 minutes.
“He just exploded in the second half,” said San Diego State’s Dwayne Polee, who guarded Johnson. “I can’t say that we didn’t play hard defense, but he just made a lot of good shots.”
Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 15 points each for the top-seeded Wildcats (33-4), who will try to win a West Regional final for the first time in Anaheim. They’re 0-3 at Honda Center going into Saturday’s game against second-seeded Wisconsin (29-7).
Arizona coach Sean Miller joined his brother Archie in the final eight. The younger Miller coached Dayton to an 82-72 victory over Stanford of the Pac-12 in the South Regional semifinals.
“We watched the game in our locker room,” Miller said. “The fact that two of us are in the Elite Eight is a very unique situation, but we’ll see.”
Xavier Thames scored 25 points and Dwayne Polee added 13 points for the Aztecs (31-5). Those two tried to bail out SDSU in the final minute, each hitting 3-pointers before Thames’ basket cut the deficit to 65-61 with 38 seconds left.
The drama wasn’t over yet in a game featuring tenacious defense and rabid intensity by both teams.
SDSU got called for a 10-second violation, and the Wildcats regained the ball. Johnson got fouled and made both free throws for a 67-61 lead with 26 seconds to go. Thames got fouled on a 3-point attempt, and he sank all three shots to leave SDSU trailing 67-64.
The Aztecs had Johnson trapped near their bench, but he passed out of the double team and Gabe York got fouled at the other end. He missed the first and made the second, keeping Arizona ahead 68-64. Thames missed, and Johnson went to the line again where he ended the scoring with two free throws.
The Aztecs were trying to reach the final eight for the first time in school history under 69-year-old coach Steve Fisher.
Wisconsin 69, Baylor 52
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Frank Kaminsky scored 19 points and blocked six shots, and Wisconsin romped.
Ben Brust hit three 3-pointers and scored 14 points for the second-seeded Badgers (29-7), who jumped to a 14-point lead in the first half and never let up on the overmatched Bears (26-12).
The 7-foot Kaminsky and his disciplined teammates shredded the Baylor zone defense that played so well in the first two games. Wisconsin also methodically shut down Baylor’s talented offense while moving into its second regional final in 13 years under Bo Ryan, who has never reached a Final Four in a 700-win coaching career.
Cory Jefferson scored 15 points for the sixth-seeded Bears, who did little with their third Sweet 16 trip in five years.
Isaiah Austin and Kenny Chery scored 12 points apiece for Baylor, which made two of its 15 3-point attempts while trailing for the final 39 minutes. The Bears needed a late rally just to match their lowest-scoring performance of the season in the final seconds.
Wisconsin advanced to face top-seeded Arizona in the regional final Saturday at Honda Center.
Dayton 82, Stanford 72
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Jordan Sibert scored 18 points, Kendall Pollard added a season-high 12 and Dayton rolled past Stanford to make the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight for the first time since 1984.
No. 11 Dayton (26-10) continued its underdog run and this one wasn’t particularly close. The 6-foot-4 Sibert was spectacular, slashing to the basket and draining 3-pointers, to help the Flyers lead for almost the entire night.
Dayton showed its depth early, using 12 players in the first half to slowly wear Stanford down.
No. 10 Stanford (23-13) had the superior post play, but it wasn’t enough. Chasson Randle led the Cardinal with 21 points, but shot 5 of 21 from the field. Dwight Powell added 17 and Stefan Nastic — who fouled out with more than five minutes left — had 15.
Sibert finished 7 of 12 from the field, including 4 of 9 from 3-point range. He had plenty of help. Devin Oliver scored 12 points and Matt Kavanaugh added 10.
Dayton plays top-seeded Florida on Saturday in the South Regional final.
Florida 79, UCLA 68
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Michael Frazier II hit five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points as Florida reached its fourth consecutive NCAA regional final.
The Gators (35-2) also extended the best winning streak in school history to 29 straight in reaching the South Regional final.
Scottie Wilbekin added 13 points for Florida, which is back where the last three Gators seasons ended. Casey Prather had 12 points, and Dorian Finney-Smith had 10. Kasey Hill had 10 assists.
UCLA (28-9) was back in a regional semifinal for the first time since 2008 under first-year coach Steve Alford.
Jordan Adams led the Bruins with 17 points, Kyle Anderson had 11 and five assists with nine rebounds. Travis Wear added 14.
By wire souces