To open the Pac-12 Tournament, the Wildcats were faced with a rare offensive assault by a Stanford team that was hot and a forward who could not seem to miss.
Arizona won in a win that was a good start for the Wildcats' long postseason run.
Christian Koloko scored 24 points. Bennedict Mathurin had 20. No. On Thursday, Stanford was defeated by 2 Arizona 84-80 in the quarterfinals.
Tommy Lloyd, Arizona coach, said that it was enjoyable to be tested today. "Obviously Stanford gave us all we needed and more. This time of the year is my favorite. These games are my favorite. These games mean so much to me. "Win or go home," is the only way to win.
The Cardinal was unable to be shaken by the top-seeded Wildcats (26-3), and they faced the same problem in the opening round of the tournament.
The ninth-seeded Stanford (16-16), beat Arizona State with a buzzer-beater on Wednesday in Las Vegas. Arizona was then hit with a series of 3-pointers in an encore.
The Cardinal was 11 for 20 behind arc, Spencer Jones made shots from all angles and scored 28 points. Stanford was 54% down against the Pac-12's top defensive team, in an atmosphere that was McKale Center north.
"We executed our game plan very well down the stretch, and gave ourselves opportunities," Jerod Haase, Stanford coach, said.
Arizona was the winning team.
Arizona led 82-77 with Koloko's two-handed dunk. Harrison Ingram (16 points), cut the lead to two with a corner 3 with 13 second left. Pelle Larsson was fouled by the Cardinal and Ingram made two free throws in 8.5 seconds to send the Wildcats into Friday's semifinals.
Koloko said, "We have a young group, so we need those kinds of games to prepare for what's ahead for us." He had nine rebounds as well as four assists.
Arizona won a Pac-12 regular season title that was not expected by their coach.
Lloyd transformed the Wildcats into an aggressive and fast-paced pack by applying the principles he learned 22 years ago as Mark Few's assistant in Gonzaga.
Arizona's offensive possessions take just 14 seconds. The Wildcats scored 84.7 points per match, which is third in the nation.
Arizona's aerials were interrupted by the Cardinal's anchor drop in their second meeting of the season. The Wildcats won the first game 81-69.
In the third round, Stanford almost shot for shot with Wildcats. Jones scored 13 points in Arizona using a variety of midrange jumpers. The Cardinal was 6 of 8 from 3, the first half.
Jones said, "I had to be as aggressive and as fast as I could," and finished 12 of 18 from the ground and 4 of 7 from the 3.
Mathurin was able to get the ball in the post for Arizona, and he seemed to know the answer to every run by the Cardinal. Arizona took a lead of 40-37 with 14 points from Mathurin.
To start the second half, Stanford continued to drop in shots. Jones opened the game with a pair 3s, and the Cardinal made six of seven shots. Three of those 3s were missed by Jones.
Arizona maintained pace and traded baskets with Stanford in a back and forth second half. Neither team was able to gain much separation.
The Wildcats were in danger of pulling away twice and extended their lead to five. Stanford stopped the momentum, and slowed the crowd by continuing to drain shots. This set up the tight finish that Arizona achieved for a win.
Stanford displayed a lot of grit, and in what could be its season's final with an amazing shooting performance, it showed great determination. But it wasn't enough to beat one of the best teams in the country.
The tournament's ninth seed put Arizona to the test and it passed. Even when everything goes wrong, the Wildcats manage to win.
Arizona's point guard Kerr Kriisa was injured in 32 seconds.
While making a pass, the Estonian guard fell on a Stanford player's right foot. Kriisa was in great pain and couldn't put any weight on his right leg when he was taken to the locker room.
Lloyd was uncertain about his availability for the remainder of the tournament.
Stanford: Stanford won't be attending the NCAA Tournament but could receive an invitation to another postseason tournament.
Arizona will face Oregon-Colorado in Friday's semifinals.