Kaleb Tarczewski

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No. 15 Arizona holds on to beat Colorado 82-78 at Pac-12

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LAS VEGAS (AP) Arizona played a near-flawless first half, pouring in shots, shutting Colorado down, threatening to turn the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal into a blowout.

The momentum shifted dramatically in the second half as the Wildcats let up and the Buffaloes erased nearly all of a 22-point deficit.

The Wildcats held on to move on to the semifinals, but it was much harder than it needed to be.

Allonzo Trier scored 23 points, Ryan Anderson had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and No. 15 Arizona held off Colorado 82-78 on Thursday.

“I guess if you’re the coach, you can look at it this way: Hey, everything’s fine. We’re in the semifinals against Oregon. Awesome job. We advanced. A lot of teams would have loved to,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “Or you can really say our effort level is as bad as I’ve ever seen in the last 20 minutes. I choose to focus on the second one.”

Arizona (25-7) has been plagued by inconsistency, only playing well for a half in many of its games.

Most games, the Wildcats struggle early and wear teams down late.

This time, they almost got run over.

Up 17 at halftime, Arizona watched as the Buffaloes raced past them for one offensive rebound after another – 25 in all – to chip away at the lead.

Colorado had the Wildcats on their heels and were within reach, pulling within two on George King’s 3-pointer with 3 seconds left.

Arizona managed to escape, pushing the lead to four on Gabe York’s two free throws, but will need to play a full game if it’s going to beat No. 8 Oregon in the semifinals Friday night.

“If you hold our team to the standards of the past at Arizona or you look at us as competing for this tournament’s championship, we’re not going to be able to advance and be the same team that we’ve been,” Miller said of his team only playing well for one half.

Colorado (22-11) clawed its way back from a huge hole by hitting the offensive glass, but couldn’t overcome its shaky shooting. The fifth-seeded Buffaloes shot 34 percent and made 5 of 19 from 3-point range, leaving their NCAA Tournament fate in the hands of the selection committee.

King had 22 points, and Josh Scott finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds for Colorado, which had 26 second-chance points.

“The one thing about our team is there is no give-up,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “They’ve got tremendous fight, tremendous resolve and I’m really proud of the comeback that we staged to get ourselves back in the game.”

Colorado opened the tournament with a dominating performance, beating Washington State 80-56 behind King’s 21-point night.

That earned the Buffaloes a shot at the Wildcats, who were itching for a rematch after losing in Boulder on Feb. 24.

Arizona rallied from a 10-point, second-half deficit in that game, but couldn’t make the plays down the stretch or stop Scott, who had a season-high 26 points.

The Wildcats turned the rematch into a rout from the opening tip.

Smothering the Buffaloes defensively, Arizona set up easy baskets in transition while opening with a 14-2 run, setting off a chant of “U of A!”

The Wildcats kept it rolling, building a 37-20 halftime lead York’s 11 points.

Colorado had more turnovers than field goals – nine to eight – and missed all six of its 3-point attempts.

“Our guys were down. They were disappointed,” Boyle said. “But, again, there is no quit in these guys. There wasn’t any question in my mind.”

He was right.

The Buffaloes found their rhythm a bit in the second half, gaining a surge a momentum midway through while cutting into Arizona’s lead.

Trier stemmed the tide briefly with a couple of athletic shots in transition, but Colorado fought back one more time, pulling to 64-57 on Scott’s three-point play with 5 minutes left.

The Buffaloes kept clawing back every time Arizona tried to pull away, but couldn’t make it all the way back, finishing just short.

TIP INS

Colorado: The Buffaloes had a 51-35 rebounding advantage. .. Colorado made 21 of 25 free throws.

Arizona: The Wildcats blocked 11 shots, including three by Anderson. … York finished with 15 points and Kadeem Allen had 12.

WHAT’S NEXT

Colorado has to wait until Sunday to find out if it will play in the NCAA Tournament.

Arizona faces No. 8 Oregon in the semifinals Friday night.

No. 18 Arizona uses late rally to beat No. 25 California

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While ranked within the top 20 of the national polls, No. 18 Arizona has a résumé that could use another quality victory when it comes to their NCAA tournament seeding. Add in the fact that they were swept on the road last week, and Thursday’s home game against No. 25 California was a critical contest for a team in need of some positive momentum.

It was a struggle for the Wildcats, but thanks to a game-ending 11-0 run sparked by senior guard Gabe York Arizona managed to pull out the 64-61 victory.

York, who didn’t score in the first half, racked up 19 points in the second half and hit three three-pointers during the decisive run. As a team Arizona shot 50 percent from the field in the second half, with York’s improved scoring serving as the spark the team needed offensively. And against a team that even with its recent hot streak remains a bit of a question mark away from Berkeley, that proved to be enough in the end.

However, the rebounding effort (or lack thereof) put forth by Arizona nearly cost them the game.

Arizona’s first-shot defense was very good, as Cal shot just 36.5 percent from the field on the night. But where the Golden Bears, most notably freshman Ivan Rabb, were able to get their points was on the offensive glass. Cal rebounded 47.4 percent of its available missed shots, converting 18 offensive rebounds into 28 second-chance points.

Arizona’s been one of the nation’s best on the defensive glass this season, but that wasn’t the case against a team that entered the game ranked eighth in the Pac-12 in offensive rebounding percentage. Add in stretches in both halves in which the ball seemed to stick and the player movement stalled offensively, and Arizona wasn’t at their best on this night.

Some nights it’s about finding a way to win even when things aren’t working as planned, and Arizona managed to do that Thursday night. But if Arizona is to have a shot at playing deep into the NCAA tournament, they’ll need to be more consistent than they’ve been in recent games.

No. 18 Arizona overpowers Washington for 99-67 win

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Arizona traded baskets with Washington’s athletic players in an entertaining first half.

Once the Wildcats turned up the defensive pressure in the final 20 minutes, the Huskies had no shot of keeping up.

Ryan Anderson scored 21 points, Kaleb Tarczewski had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 18 Arizona overpowered Washington for a 99-67 victory Thursday night.

“They just did whatever they wanted in the second half,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said.

The Wildcats (14-3, 2-2 Pac-12) had no trouble scoring despite playing their first game without star freshman and leading scorer Allonzo Trier (hand).

Arizona shot 60 percent, including 19 of 27 in the second half, and outscored Washington 50-32 in the paint. Parker Jackson-Cartwright was the setup man, finishing with 11 assists and one turnover, while Kadeem Allen scored 13 points and Gabe York added 12.

Defensively, the Wildcats had trouble handling the Huskies’ quickness off the dribble and ability to get to the rim.

Arizona shut Washington down in the second half with a tenacious man-to-man defense and a bit of 2-3 zone – a first by Arizona coach Sean Miller in 12 years – to extend its home winning streak to a nation-best 48 games.

“Once we went into halftime, our defense went to another level,” Miller said.

Washington (11-5, 3-1) played without a key backup on the front line and was no match for the beefier Wildcats inside.

Arizona had a 43-26 advantage on the glass against the Pac-12’s top rebounding team and closed off the lanes to the basket in the second half to turn the game into a rout.

Noah Dickerson had 17 points and Marquese Chriss added 13 for the Huskies. Andrew Andrews, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, battled foul trouble and scored nine points on 3-of-11 shooting.

“Because of the level of team they are, you don’t have any margin for error,” Romar said. “And they made us pay for it.”

The young Huskies arrived at McKale Center as the surprising leaders of the Pac-12.

Picked to finish 11th, Washington and its seven freshmen opened conference play with three straight victories behind Andrews and Dejounte Murray, who have accounted for 53 percent of its scoring.

Arizona returned home in need of a lift.

The Wildcats had a lost Southern California weekend after being swept by UCLA and USC, and lost Trier for at least a month after he was injured in the quadruple-overtime loss to the Trojans.

Washington was missing a key player of its own; freshman forward Devenir Duruisseau, a backup forward, suffered a concussion in Monday’s practice and didn’t make the trip.

That left the Huskies thin up front and the Wildcats took advantage by pounding the ball inside with a lineup that at times included 7-footers Tarczewski and Dusan Ristic at the same time.

Anderson was the beneficiary, scoring 15 points and Arizona used an 8-2 run to lead 44-41 at halftime.

“Every game, that’s one of our mottos, to play aggressive inside,” Anderson said. “We’re bigger than most teams and we’ve got to use that.”

Washington struggled with foul trouble and Andrews rolled his right ankle late in the first half, yet the Huskies used their athleticism to keep up with the Wildcats. Chriss had 11 points and Washington made 17 of 33 shots in the first half.

Arizona threw the first punch in the second half and the Huskies had no answer.

The Wildcats went on 12-4 run to go up 56-45 and extended the lead to 22 points on consecutive inside baskets by Anderson.

Washington’s good shooting dried up against Arizona’s pressure in the second half.

The Huskies made 10 of 33 shots and Andrews had to sit after picking up his fourth foul at 13:02. By the time he returned, Arizona was well on its way to the victory.

PJC DISHES

Jackson-Cartwright didn’t start at point guard, but ended up being the catalyst, pushing the ball in transition every time the frontcourt players ripped down defensive rebounds.

“So many great plays he was involved in that led to a 3-point shot or a dunk,” Miller said. “He was in total control out there.”

TIP-INS

Washington: Washington was 2 for 12 on 3-pointers in the second half. … Murray had eight points on 8-of-12 shooting and six turnovers in his first game at McKale Center.

Arizona: Junior guard Elliott Pitts missed his ninth straight game due to unspecified personal reasons. … The Wildcats have won 22 straight Pac-12 games at home. … Arizona has scored at least 80 points in nine straight games, its longest streak since 11 straight in 1997-98.

UP NEXT

Washington plays at Arizona State on Saturday.

Arizona hosts Washington State on Saturday.

POSTERIZED: Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski ends Washington defender’s night

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After finishing with eight points and five rebounds in a win at Arizona State in his first game back from a seven-game absence due to an ankle injury, Arizona senior center Kaleb Tarczewski has posted in double-double in each of the last three games. Thursday night he racked up 16 points and 13 rebounds against a young Washington squad that gave the Wildcats a good fight for about 27 minutes at McKale Center.

But that was about all the foul-plagued Huskies had for Arizona, which went on to win 99-67. And it was Tarczewski who added the exclamation point, as he received a nice pass from guard Kadeem Allen and threw down a two-handed dunk on Washington freshman Marquese Chriss.

Two other problems in this sequence for the freshman: Allen’s crossover dribble, and he picked up his fifth foul attempting to block Tarczewski’s dunk.

Arizona expected to have Kaleb Tarczewski back this weekend

AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
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Arizona will get a boost to its lineup with the return of senior center Kaleb Tarczewski as head coach Sean Miller said the big man could play some spot minutes on Sunday against Arizona State.

Speaking with reporters this weekend, Miller said that Tarczewski has begun to practice in limited spurts as the Wildcats will gradually work the senior back into playing shape so they can avoid further setback. The senior has missed the last eight games for Arizona with a left foot injury suffered in a Nov. 26 overtime win over Santa Clara.

Arizona lost its only game of the season to Providence when Tarczewski was out of the lineup and the senior’s return gives the Wildcats its experienced starting center back. In the first five games this season, Tarczewski averaged 8.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game on 57.7 percent shooting from the floor.

While Tarczewski doesn’t put up huge numbers, he’s been in a lot of important games in his career and gives the Wildcats the additional big man they need to help them win a surprisingly deep Pac-12. I’m sure Miller will limit Tarczewski’s minutes as he continues to heal and get his wind back but it will be interesting to see how Arizona looks near full strength once he is back up to speed in a few weeks.

(H/T: Wildcat Authority)

Ranking College Basketball’s Top Front Courts

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Where it was tough to whittle down the back courts to just 15 teams, for the front lines, it was tougher to find 15 units that we truly thought were potentially dominant. Whether it was a result of a lack of depth or a lack of star power, the back end of this list didn’t feel all that overpowering.

Here are the 15 teams with the best big men:

1. Gonzaga (Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski, Domantas Sabonis)

The Zags ended up winning out on this list for the simple fact that there isn’t another program in the country with three big men that are as good as this trio. Wiltjer is a prototype stretch four with shooting splits that are reminiscent of Doug McDermott. Karnowski is the rim protector, a 7-foot-1 behemoth that has developed a solid offensive repertoire that includes baby hooks and the ability to dive to the rim in ball-screens actions. And Sabonis may actually be the best of the three, a throwback power forward that plays physical, sets hard screens and is always looking to hit the glass.

As a whole, however, I’m personally not sold, although my colleagues don’t necessarily agree with me. I think Wiltjer is a defensive liability and I worry about lineup flexibility; can you get all three on the floor at the same time? Can Sabonis and Karnowski both be on the court without the shooting of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. to spread the floor? If the answer to those questions is yes, than Gonzaga should be a top 15 team. If not, it’s a much different story.

2. North Carolina (Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson, Isaiah Hicks, Joel James, Luke Maye)

When the casual ACC hoops fan thinks of North Carolina basketball, they probably think of an uptempo, run-and-gun team built around Roy Williams’ patented secondary break offense. And while that’s true, the best North Carolina teams have always had a couple of big bodies that commanded double-teams on the block. Sean May turned into Tyler Hansbrough who eventually became Tyler Zeller. None of UNC’s bigs have that kind of lottery pick potential, but Meeks, Johnson and James are all above average post scorers. Hicks struggles with his confidence in games, but he’s routinely one of UNC’s best players in practice. If he can put it together this season, the Tar Heels will reach another level.

3. Kentucky (Skal Labissiere, Isaac Humphries, Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress, Derek Willis)

On paper, Kentucky probably has the most raw talent along their front line. The problem is that none of their five players have proven anything at the college level. Lee has been good in flashes but has yet to play extended minutes. Poythress struggled with his position identity before tearing his ACL. Humphries is a freshman that enrolled a year early. Willis has always been projected as an end of the rotation kind of guy. Labissiere has the talent to be the National Player of the Year, but until we see how he transitions to the college level, it’s tough to know whether he’s going to be great or just simply good. The good news? It’s hard to imagine all five failing to live up to their individual potential.

4. Maryland (Robert Carter, Diamond Stone, Damonte Dodd, Michael Cevosky)

I’m probably higher on this Maryland group that anyone mostly because I love the potential of running high-low offense through Diamond Stone and Robert Carter. Stone is the name you know. A 6-foot-10 four man that can play on the perimeter, he’s a top ten recruit and a potential one and done player. But Carter is the guy that has gotten all the hype since practice started. He averaged 11.4 points and 8.4 boards at Georgia Tech before sitting out last season and shedding a good 20 pounds. Dodd and Cevosky are both better than adequate subs as well.

RELATED: Top back courts in college basketball | Top 100 Players

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A.J. Hammons (Getty Images)

5. Purdue (A.J. Hammons, Vince Edwards, Isaac Haas, Caleb Swanigan)

Like Gonzaga, I love Purdue’s big men individually even if I don’t love them as a group. Hammons, when he’s dialed in, is one of the best big men in the country. He was, more often than not, dialed in last season. Haas is a 7-foot-2 center that showed tons of promise as a freshman, while Edwards, another sophomore, has a chance to be a star at the three after a very good freshman season. Throw in Biggie Swanigan, a McDonald’s All-American and a terrific low-post scoring threat, and Matt Painter is going to have some legendary battles in practice. But Haas and Hammons can’t play at the same time. Can Purdue function offensively with Swanigan at the four and Hammons or Haas at the five?

6. Baylor (Rico Gathers, Jonathan Motley, Taureen Waller-Prince)

I love this Baylor group. Waller-Prince is as underrated as anyone in the country, Gathers is an absolute bully in the paint and Motley has a chance to be this season’s breakout star in the Big 12. When all three are on the floor together — which is possible given Waller-Prince’s versatility — they’re going to be one of the best rebounding teams in the country. The problem? Depth. If Jo Acuil can’t get cleared (he has a heart issue, as if Baylor hasn’t had enough of those), the Bears will have to rely on Terry Maston, who played 11 games as a freshman.

7. Kansas (Cheick Diallo, Perry Ellis, Hunter Mickelson, Carlton Bragg, Jamari Traylor, Landon Lucas)

It was hard to know what to do with Kansas here. Bragg is promising, Mickelson and Lucas should be serviceable and Ellis should once again put up first-team all-Big 12 caliber numbers. That’s a good front line, but one that should be closer to No. 15 than No. 7. But if Diallo gets eligible, that changes things, as he’s precisely the piece their missing, an athletic, 6-foot-9 four that plays hard, runs the floor, defends and crashes the glass. He’s everything that Cliff Alexander wasn’t last year, and makes Kansas so much better. He’s also not yet cleared to play. So we slotted them here.

8. Utah (Jakob Poeltl, Brekkot Chapman, Jordan Loveridge, Kyle Kuzma, Chris Reyes)

I like the mix that Larry Krystkowiak has at his disposal here. Poeltl is an elite rim protector with a chance at being a lottery pick, Loveridge is a veteran scoring presence that can space the floor and Chapman and Kuzma are talented sophomores with bright futures. Losing Delon Wright is going to hurt the Utes, but the reason they’ll remain in hunt for a Pac-12 title.

9. Vanderbilt (Damian Jones, Luke Kornet, Djery Baptiste, Jeff Roberson, Samir Sehic)

There’s a chance that Vandy’s ranking here could look far too low by the end of the season. We expect Jones to be a star this season, potentially as the best center in all of college basketball. Baptiste and Roberson both look like quality rotation players and Sehic, a freshman, is an undersized four that always seemed to be able to produce regardless of competition at the high school level. Kornet is the x-factor. People around the program expect the 7-foot-1 sharpshooter to have a big season. If he lives up to the hype, the Commodores will be very dangerous.

Damian Jones (AP Photo)
Damian Jones (AP Photo)

10. UNLV (Stephen Zimmerman, Dwayne Morgan, Ben Carter, Goodluck Okonoboh, Derrick Jones)

There is so much talent on this front line. So much. Morgan and Okonoboh were high profile recruits in the Class of 2014, Jones — a freshman — will be the nation’s best dunker this season and Carter was a starter at Oregon. Zimmerman is the best of a bunch, a versatile, 7-foot lefty whose biggest strength is his ability to pass the ball. Can they live up to their potential is the major question mark here.

11. Virginia (Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey, Isaiah Wilkins, Jarrod Reuter)

Losing Darion Atkins, who was so, so good for the Cavs on the defensive end of the floor, is a bigger blow than some may realize. But Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey are both above average post scorers and Isaiah Wilkins is an intriguing prospect that had some promising moments last season. As with just about everyone on Tony Bennett’s roster, these guys are better than their numbers will suggest.

12. Arizona (Kaleb Tarczewski, Ryan Anderson, Mark Tollefsen, Dusan Ristic, Chance Comanche)

Even with Ray Smith done for the year with a torn ACL, the Wildcats deserve a place on this list. That’s what happens when you have this much quality depth. But who is a star in this group? Who scares opposing scouts? Zeus has never lived up to the billing of being a top ten prospect, scouts love Ristic but he has yet to beat out Zeus, Comanche is a freshman that needs a year or two and Tollefson is a transfer from San Francisco. Anderson, who averaged 14.3 points and 7.3 boards at BC, is the best of the bunch on paper, but he lacks explosiveness and is coming off of a redshirt season. He’s the x-factor in this equation.

13. Iowa State (Georges Niang, Jameel McKay, Simeon Carter)

Niang is the single-toughest cover in all of college basketball. A 6-foot-8 power forward, he’s so skilled: he can beat you in the post, he can beat you to the rim from the perimeter, he can pass, he can shoot, he can dribble. He’s a stud. McKay is the perfect compliment, a 6-foot-9 shot-blocker and offensive rebounder. But after those two, there really isn’t much of note in ISU’s front court.

14. LSU (Ben Simmons, Craig Victor, Elbert Robinson, Aaron Epps, Brian Bridgewater)

Simmons is going to be must-see TV every time he plays as a freshman. He’s a 6-foot-9 point forward with handle, an innate passing ability and a flair for making highlight reel plays. He’ll notch multiple triple-doubles this season. But where is his front court support? Craig Victor is the most talented of the bunch, but left Arizona because he couldn’t crack the rotation.

15. San Diego State (Malik Pope, Skylar Spencer, Zylan Cheatham, Angelo Chol)

This ranking is based on the assumption that Malik Pope lives up to his potential. He’s got the talent of a lottery pick and the consistentcy — and the health — of a four-year Mountain West big man. Spencer is a shot-blocker extraordinaire, Chol is an above-average high major big man and Cheatham has plenty of promise, but if Pope doesn’t play his way into being a first round pick, this rank will look silly in March.

Others considered: Texas A&M, Cal, Marquette, Wake Forest, Cincinnati, Duke