Arizona, the No. 2 seed in the West Region, outscored No. 7 Saint Mary’s by 10 in the second half to pick up a 69-60 victory on Saturday night in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
Lauri Markkanen had 16 points and 11 rebounds. Allonzo Trier followed with 14 second-half points. Saint Mary’s Jock Landale led the Gaels with a game-high 19 points and 11 rebounds in a losing effort.
With the a win, which began the Wildcats trailing by double figures in the first half, the Wildcats have cleared another hurdle en route to Sean Miller’s elusive Final Four appearance.
Saint Mary’s, based on analytics, such as kenpom, was rated higher than Arizona. However, the Wildcats held the efficient offense of the Gaels to 43 percent shooting from the field — under 24 percent from three for the game — and scored 15 points off their 13 turnovers.
Defense became the problem in the second half for the Gaels, with Arizona outscoring Saint Mary’s by 10, shooting next to 60 percent from the field during that span. The efficient offense, which rated in the top 15 according to kenpom, coughed the ball up 13 times, resulting in 15 points for Arizona.
The Wildcats advance to play No. 11 Xavier, a program Miller served at the helm of for five seasons. The last time Miller faced his former program, Arizona knocked off Xavier in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.