SAN DIEGO — The last time Arizona and Gonzaga met in the NCAA Tournament, it was epic.
On Sunday, it was easy — for the Wildcats.
Top-seeded Arizona punched its ticket to Anaheim, Calif., and the Sweet 16 by defeating the Bulldogs 84-61 in a third-round West Region game Sunday.
On Thursday, the Wildcats will play San Diego State, a team they defeated by six points earlier this season, the Aztecs’ lone home loss.
Arizona (32-4) coasted Sunday after leading the eighth-seeded Bulldogs (29-7) by as many as 21 points in the first half.
Freshman forward Aaron Gordon was sensational, leading the Wildcats with 18 points, while adding six rebounds, six assists and four steals.
The Bulldogs’ top scorer was center Przemek Karnowski who had 14 points. Guard Kevin Pangos added 12.
The lopsided affair was far from the NCAA Tournament classic produced when the teams played in the 2003 round of 32. In their only other postseason matchup, the Wildcats prevailed, 96-95, in double overtime.
Arizona, which heads to its 16th Sweet 16 and third in five years under coach Sean Miller, wouldn’t be stretched to such lengths Sunday. Gordon showed why he could be headed for the NBA, and guard Nick Johnson (17 points, five rebounds, five assists) displayed why he was selected the Pac-12 Player of the Year.
Gonzaga held a lead in the first half — but it was early and it wasn’t for long. The Wildcats trailed 47-34 at halftime.
A 4-2 Gonzaga advantage a minute into the game was a distant memory as the Wildcats dominated for the other 19 minutes of the half.
Arizona stretched its lead to 11 points with 12 minutes left in the half, and it was only getting warmed up. That cushion quickly grew to 20 on a layup by guard Gabe York, which came on the heels of a thunderous dunk from Gordon.
The bulge got to 21 points before a brief spurt by the Bulldogs toward the end of the half.
Gordon paced the Wildcats with 12 first-half points, missing only one of six field-goal attempts.
Pangos scored nine first-half points.
NOTES: Arizona’s 32 victories are the second most in a season in school history. … The Wildcats have three 200-pounders in their lineup: F Aaron Gordon (225), C Kaleb Tarczewski (235) and G Nick Johnson (200). … Arizona is balanced offensively as the difference between its top scorer, Johnson, and its No. 7 scorer, guard Gabe York, is 9.4 points. … Before beating Oklahoma State Friday, Gonzaga’s recent San Diego memories were not pleasant. The Bulldogs were upset by the University of San Diego last month, 69-66. … Gonzaga lost to Arizona for the fourth time in the past five meetings.
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