LAS VEGAS — Guard Nick Johnson led a balanced scoring effort, and fourth-ranked Arizona dominated defensively as the Wildcats beat Utah 71-39 in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon.
Arizona, which won the Pac-12 regular-season title, advanced to play the winner of fourth-seeded Cal and No. 5 Colorado later Thursday. That semifinal will be held Friday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Johnson, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, nearly outscored Utah by himself in the first half, putting in 12 points to help Arizona to a 34-13 lead.
It was more of the same after the break. Utah missed its first 11 shots from the field, failing to hit a basket until there was 10:44 left. Arizona twice in the second half tripled Utah’s score, including at 51-17 with 12:15 to go.
The Wildcats (29-3) have virtually assured themselves of a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Utah (21-11) will wait for a potential NIT bid.
Johnson finished with 14 points. Point guard T.J. McConnell added 13 and forward Aaron Gordon had 11 points and seven rebounds. None of Arizona’s top four scorers played in the final 6:35.
Utah guard Delon Wright, averaging a team-high 16.1 points per game, scored five on 1-of-8 shooting. Forward Jordan Loveridge, averaging 15.1 points, scored two points and missed all six shots from the field. Wright and Loveridge were scoreless in the first half, taking only four shots.
Center Dallin Bachynski led the Utes with nine points.
Utah’s 25.5 percent shooting was the worst ever in a Pac-12 tournament game, set a record for fewest field goals (12) and set the mark for fewest points in the Pac-12 tournament.
Utah’s season was marked by close calls — eight of the previous 10 defeats were by four points or fewer — but this game was over in the first half.
Arizona entered the game ranked ninth nationally in field-goal percentage defense (38.5) and sixth in scoring defense at 58.7 points per game, which could end up being the best average at the school since the 1950-51 season.
The Wildcats asserted that defense early in the game, holding Utah without a point for 7:55, turning a 7-6 lead into a 22-6 advantage. The Utes missed five shots and turned the ball over four times during their drought, which was ended by a jumper from forward Princeton Onwas.
Later, Arizona scored after back-to-back steals, including a coast-to-coast effort from forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, as the Wildcats took a 34-13 lead at the break. Utah turned the ball over eight times in the half and shot 26.3 percent from the field (5 of 19).
NOTES: Arizona junior G Nick Johnson moved from No. 31 to No. 29 on the school’s career scoring list, passing Ed Nymeyer (1,225 points) and Derrick Williams (1,227). Johnson has 1,229 points. … Utah set a Pac-12 tournament record for fewest points in a half. The Utes set the old mark of 15 last year. … Former Arizona coach Lute Olson attended the game. … Utah F Jordan Loveridge was 5 of 32 from the field in three games vs. Arizona this season.
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