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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona’s season ends in the Elite Eight

Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker/ The Daily Wildcat Arizona freshman forward Aaron Gordon (11) walks toward the bencha after Arizona’s 63-64 loss against Wisconsin in the NCAA Elite Eight at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Cali. on Saturday.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — All Arizona junior guard Nick Johnson could do was stand there.

As he stood on the court of the Honda Center looking at the hoop, Wisconsin players and fans were erupting in jubilation. The No. 1-seeded Wildcats had lost 64-63 in overtime in the Elite Eight on Saturday night.

“You know what, it’s all a blur right now,” Johnson said.

Following an offensive charging call against Johnson on what appeared to be its final possession, Arizona’s season-long scoring leader was given one more chance to win it with 2.3 seconds left in the game, but he didn’t get the shot off in time.

So, he stood there.

“If I had to go back and do it, I probably would have taken one dribble less and try to pull up and get the shot off,” Johnson said, “but they made it tough.”

With the game over, the Wisconsin players on the court rushed to hug one another, Johnson stood frozen at the spot where he took his one-too-many dribble.

After standing there staring at the hoop for a while Johnson was finally greeted by teammate Brandon Ashley.

The injured sophomore forward Ashley patted Johnson on the back and put his arm around the junior to help walk him over to the sideline.

“We can look back on the game and be regretful, but then again, we can look over the course of our season,” freshman Wildcat Aaron Gordon said. “We only had five losses; the rest are wins.”

With Ashley, the starter who was lost for the season after suffering a broken foot on Feb. 1, arm around his shoulder, the two together walked back to the sideline to shake the Badgers’ hands.

The first hand they shook was Wisconsin’s 7-foot center Frank Kaminsky.

“Frank Kaminsky is the reason Wisconsin is in the Final Four,” Wildcats’ head coach Sean Miller said. “Late in the game, I thought it gave us a shot of momentum to take Kaleb [Tarczewski] out and try to switch. But [Kaminsky] is 7-foot, and he got a couple put backs, and it’s not a good feeling when you start to switch that little guy on him.”

Kaminsky, who was named to the All-Big Ten conference first team, ended the game with 28 points and 11 rebounds. It was his second career double-double.

Throughout Saturday’s game, Kaminsky burned Arizona with his size and his ability to step out and hit a 3-pointer. The junior made three of Wisconsin’s six 3-pointers on the day.

Kaminsky was 11-for-20 from the field for the game. After the game, he was named to the NCAA Tournament West Regional All-Tournament team as well as the region’s Most Valuable Player.

Arizona’s Gordon and Johnson also made the All-Tournament regional team.

Gordon missed his first eight field goal attempts Saturday and didn’t make his first until 2:33 left in regulation. The freshman finished with eight points and 18 rebounds.

His 18 rebounds were a career and an NCAA Tournament school record.

Gordon finishes the season with 303 rebounds, the most by a Wildcats freshman.

Following the game, Gordon was in tears and said he was unsure yet if he would leave Arizona early for the 2014 NBA Draft.

“I have a great family and support system who will help me make a decision,” Gordon said.

As for Johnson, the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year, he finished with a team-high 16 points. Johnson now has 1,333 points in his career, which places him 24th all-time in Wildcat history. He passed former Wildcats Frank Smith and Mustafa Shakur on Saturday night.

After the game, Miller explained how difficult of an inbound it was for his team and for Johnson’s shot by crediting Wisconsin’s defense.

He called Saturday’s loss disappointing and said he doesn’t know how long it will take him to move on. But, at some point, he said he will and begin focusing on next season.

“When you lose, it’s like a car crashes, you know,” Miller said of Saturday’s elimination. “It’s just, you’re done, but I’m so proud of our team.”

–Follow Luke Della @LukeDella

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