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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Recap: York and McConnell lead Arizona into Sweet 16

Rebecca Noble

Arizona guards TJ McConnell (4) and Gabe York (1) exchange briefs words before York’s free throw attempt during Arizona’s 73-58 win against Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in the Moda Center in Portland, Ore. on Saturday.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Another game, another pair of heroes for Arizona men’s basketball.

The No. 2 seeded Wildcats advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 73-58 win over No. 10 seeded Ohio State in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Arizona trailed for 15:53 but took the lead for good late in the first half.

“Going into a game against them, you know you’re going to be tested, and we were,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “Their zone defense had us playing very tentative for a duration of the game. I really felt like we started to get control towards the latter half of the first half. But in the second half we clearly got the basketball around the rim.”

The Wildcats will face No. 6 seeded Xavier in the Sweet 16. Miller used to coach the Musketeers.

Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell and shooting guard Gabe York each scored 19 points. York didn’t score on Thursday in the Wildcats’ first game of the tournament and made five three pointers after only scoring three points in the first half.

“Tonight I wanted to be aggressive, but also know that my teammates were going to find me in transition or throughout the zone with however many seconds were left on the shot clock,” York said. “I just did a great job of knocking down shots today.”

Miller said the Wildcats need York and he delivered.

“He got a couple good looks, especially in the second half,” Miller said. “In the first half, we were very tentative, and we weren’t able to break him free because the ball didn’t get into the middle and we didn’t move it well enough. Even a couple of the shots that he took in the first half were almost desperation. Second half he got some great looks.”

In addition to his 19 points, McConnell also had six assists and six rebounds and five steals. He was just the sixth person in NCAA Tournament history to get at least 15 points, five boards, five assists and five steals.

McConnell wasn’t aware of that fun fact.

“You know, we can enjoy it now, but we’ve got to move on to Georgia State or Xavier,” McConnell said. “It was a good game for us, but we can’t be too high on this one. Just got to look ahead to the next game.”

McConnell, also helped shut down Ohio State’s All-American leading scorer, guard D’Angelo Russell. The Buckeye freshman went 3-for-19 from the field and scored nine points, which was 10.6 under his average going into the game.

“Unfortunately it was kind of one of those days for him in terms of the shots not going down,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said about Russell. “But as I told him, ‘hey, he’s got to keep shooting.’ We were hoping, as he’s done so many times this year, he’s kind of caught fire and put us on his back. It was unfortunately one of those games.”

One other Wildcat scored in double-figures, forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds and also guarded Russell for a good portion of the game.

“We got a great defensive team, like day in and day out,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “We had a bad defensive game last game but we bounced back, as you can see. It takes a team to be able to guard a player and we had that help tonight.”

A couple negatives for the Wildcats were forward Brandon Ashley fouling out and forward Stanley Johnson scoring only four points. On Thursday Johnson had 22 points, tying a career-high.

“I felt good about my performance — we won the game,” Johnson said. “I’m not sure what the score is, but I think we won by like 20. One for 12, 20 point win, Sweet 16 — I can live, be happy.”

This is Arizona’s third straight Sweet 16, their fourth in five years and the program’s 17th overall.

Miller improved to 13-1 as the higher seed in the NCAA Tournament and picked up his first win against Matta, his former boss and a friend. Matta had beaten Miller when he led Xavier and two years ago at Arizona.

“Sean is doing a heck of a job putting those guys in position to be successful,” Matta said. “Quite honestly, we had to sort of pick our poison in terms of what we wanted to do today defensively because they can hurt you in so many different ways.”


Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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