SAN DIEGO — Arizona played up to its top billing in the West Region’s second round Friday by holding off a strong front by Weber State for a 68-59 victory.
Seeded No. 1, Arizona (31-4) led by 12 points at halftime and cruised in against No. 16 seed Weber State (19-12).
On Saturday, Arizona plays the winner of the Gonzaga-Oklahoma State game for a trip to the Sweet 16 in Anaheim, Calif.
Arizona, which lost to UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament final, led by 21 points midway through the second half.
Guard Nick Johnson led Arizona with 18 points, and forward Aaron Gordon added 16 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots.
“We had a few jitters at the beginning of the game,” Gordon said. “But you have to rise to the occasion. It was fun.”
Weber State, winner of the Big Sky tournament, was paced by guard Davion Berry’s 24 points, with 19 coming in the second half.
Despite trailing, 56-38, with under nine minutes remaining, Weber State rallied to make it interesting.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Weber State coach Randy Rahe said. “Believe it or not, we came in here expecting to win. But that’s one heck of a basketball team.”
With Berry scoring 11 points over a five-minute run, Weber State cut Arizona’s cushion down to 60-51 with 4:29 remaining.
But Johnson, the Pac-12 player of the year, sank a 3-pointer to derail Weber State’s comeback.
Still, when Berry banked in a 3-pointer at the 2:24 mark, Weber State was again down by nine.
“He’s a great player who scores in a variety of ways,” Johnson said. “Overall, we did a decent job on him.”
With highlights of Mercer’s upset of Duke being shown during the first half, some thought Weber State might pull a rabbit from its hat.
And for good reason: Weber State raced to a 7-0 lead, which became a 10-2 advantage.
But Arizona, which had one field goal in the first five minutes, got things right quickly. In a productive minute, Arizona was down by one and then led, 14-12, with 11 minutes remaining.
Weber State shot only 25 percent (6-of-24) in the opening 20 minutes, and saw Arizona slowly pull away. Five minutes after being down by two points, Weber State trailed by nine.
Forward Joel Bolomboy, who paced Weber State with seven first-half points, hit a free throw to snap a nearly five-minute Weber State scoreless stretch.
But when guard Gabe York converted a put-back, Arizona enjoyed a 13-point advantage. It gave him eight points in the half, which led Arizona.
Arizona had a 32-20 halftime bulge, thanks in part to hitting 50 percent (13-of-26) of its shots from the field.
NOTES: Arizona is a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in program history and the first since 2003. … Arizona is used to playing before big road crowds. Average attendance at its away games this season was 10,897, which led the Pac-12. … Weber State made its 15th NCAA Tournament appearance, the most in Big Sky Conference history. … Weber State faced only two NCAA Tournament teams during the season, losing to at BYU, 81-72, and at UCLA, 83-60. … Miami Heat President Pat Riley was in attendance.
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