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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Johnson, Wildcats finish off Arizona State in regular season finale

Tyler Besh

Nick Johnson celebrates a three-pointer he made for the Arizona Wildcats against ASU on Saturday, March 9, 2013. Arizona won the game 73-58 at McKale Center.

The No. 18 Arizona men’s basketball team overcame a slew of fouls in the second half to take care of rival Arizona State 73-58 Saturday at McKale Center in the regular season finale.

The second half was ugly and foul ridden for both sides, but the Wildcats (24-6, 12-6 Pac-12) were able to end a two-game losing streak and finish tied for second place in the Pac-12 thanks to the effort of sophomore Nick Johnson

“Nick was one of the best players in the game, if not the best player in the game today,” head coach Sean Miller said. “He did it on both ends. That’s the Nick that’s played with us for just about the entire season, he knows this.

“If he’s not energized defensively or playing with confidence on offense, we’re not nearly as good of a team.”

It might have been senior night, but Johnson owned the show for Arizona. He scored 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting and added four rebounds, three assists and three steals in an all-around effort against Arizona State (20-11, 9-9).

Over the final half of the conference season, Johnson’s play had took a significant dive. Saturday was a different story, as he played with his patented intensity on both ends of the floor.

Johnson said it felt good to finally get back into form. “But, I think all of it started with our team defense.”

Arizona State (20-for-43) had a slight edge over Arizona (24-for-54) from the floor, but it was in other areas where the Wildcat defense clamped down.

The UA dominated both the turnover, 17 to 10, and rebounding battles, 34 to 22. That, in addition to free throw shooting — Arizona made 17-of-21 while ASU hit 9-of-15 — gave the Wildcats the edge.

After leaving the locker room with a 15 point lead, the Sun Devils managed to cut the UA advantage to 50-45. But, Johnson went on a 7-0 run himself to put Arizona up by double-digits and back in control of the game.

Some ticky-tack officiating aided in the Sun Devils’ early second half run. Arizona picked up seven fouls before three minutes had passed, including a technical on Johnson.

“That was most bizarre three minutes of basketball that I’d ever coached in, played in or witnessed at any level,” Miller said. “From the time that I was two to the time that I was 44. Bizarre, that’s all I’m going to say.”

But the fouls eventually evened out, and actually tipped in the favor of the home team. With ASU’s shorter bench and poor free throw shooting, the Wildcats were able to take control.

“That’s all part of it — playing through those types of moments,” Miller said. “It looked like the wheels were falling off but we quickly got them back on.”

There were a combined 25 fouls in the second half and 40 total in the game. With three technicals being handed out in the game, it definitely lived up to the billing of a rivalry match.

“We just had to keep our composure and that’s something I think we did a good job of,” senior Kevin Parrom said.

Senior Solomon Hill had a rough first half, with his first bucket coming at the 5:42 mark in the first half. Hill eventually fought through the scoring struggles and finished with 12 points, four rebounds and four assists. He also went 5-for-5 from the line.

Offense wasn’t what Hill was worried about, though. While dropping four of its past seven, Hill continually said Arizona needed to pick up its defensive intensity. It finally happened against the Sun Devils.

“I think we really needed to get our defense back,” Hill said. “It was good to see it out there on the floor, instead of just talking about it in practice.”

After a terrible performance the last time the teams met in Tempe, the Sun Devils’ Carrick Felix showed up to play Saturday. He led ASU with 22 points on 6-for-9 shooting while guard Jahii Carson added 15 of his own on 5-of-12 from the field.

“Felix played big tonight,” Hill said. “But, as a team they didn’t really get going.”

The rest of the Sun Devils scored just 21 points.

Senior Kevin Parrom finished with the second most points (13) for the Wildcats in his final game at the McKale Center. He hit 4-of-8 from the field and had seven rebounds. The other senior starter, guard Mark Lyons, made just two of his 10 shots for eight points and fouled out of the game with a late technical.

While Lyons was the only UA player to foul out, three Sun Devils left the game with five fouls and Felix had four for the final nine minutes of the game.

Freshman Kaleb Tarczewski had nine points and a game-high eight rebounds and shot 4-for-4 from the field. On one sequence he towered over the surrounding players to snag two offensive rebounds. The third shot finally fell as Hill connected from beyond the arc.

After the play Johnson went up to the freshman to praise him for his effort. “[I told him], ‘That was all you,’” Johnson said. “‘We got that three, we went on the run because of you.‘”

With the clock ticking down and Arizona up big, the final two seniors – forward Max Wiepking and guard Quinton Crawford – entered the game. Wiepking missed his three-attempt but Crawford grabbed the offensive rebound and dribbled out the clock for the Wildcats.

“It’s always good when you can put some of the guys like Max and Quinton on the court when you have such a lead like that,” Hill said.

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