Azuolas Tubelis had 20 points and No. 2 Arizona dominated the paint to beat Colorado 82-72 in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals on Friday night in Las Vegas.
The top-seeded Wildcats (30-3) will face either No. 13 UCLA or No. 21 USC in Saturday night’s conference tournament final. They’ll be seeking their first Pac-12 tourney title since 2018.
Tubelis, who was 9 of 14 from the field, had 18 points in the first half including 10 in a row late in the first half. His play inside enabled Arizona to outscore the fourth-seeded Buffaloes 30-14 in the paint after losing that battle 54-26 in a 79-63 loss at Colorado (21-11) in late February.
Arizona was 24-of-25 from the foul line, compared to 8-of-10 for the Buffaloes, and made all 15 free throw attempts in the second half.
Colorado, which dropped to 1-6 against Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament, set a conference tourney record with 16 3-pointers on 32 attempts. But when inside the arc they couldn’t find the bottom of the basket, going 8-of-30 on 2-pointers to shoot just 38.7 percent for the game.
Arizona led 47-38 at the break, but Colorado started the second half like it did the first by hitting a bunch of 3-pointers. The Buffaloes hit four in the first 3:44, including on three straight possessions to get within 51-50 with 16:16 to go.
The Wildcats, who shot 60.7 percent in the first half, were just 2-of-7 with six turnovers over the first eight minutes of the second half before Justin Kier had a 3-point play to put his team up 58-54 with 11:41 left.
Kier, who started in place of injured point guard Kerr Kriisa, had 13 points. Kriisa suffered a sprained right ankle in the final minute of Arizona’s quarterfinal win over Stanford.
Colorado’s Jabari Walker, who had a team-high 19 points, picked up his fourth foul with 10:37 left, and in his absence Arizona pounded the ball inside and got to the line. Then Dalen Terry’s 3-pointer put the Wildcats up 69-62 with 7:27 remaining, and another triple by Terry with 2:52 to go made it 74-65.
Colorado hit its first five shots, including a trio of 3-pointers, in the first two and a half minutes while Arizona committed four turnovers before the first media timeout. A fourth 3-pointer, by Tristan Da Silva, put the Buffaloes up 16-8 with 15:19 left in the first half.
Arizona went on a 14-5 run to lead 22-21 with 10:15 left on a Kier 3-pointer, only to see Walker hit his fourth triple 16 seconds later to give Colorado back the lead.
The Wildcats then scored nine points in 59 seconds, fueled by a pair of Dalen Terry steals, to go up 31-24 with 7:58 to go.
Colorado was outscored 39-22 over the final 15 minutes of the first half.
-Field Level Media