LAS VEGAS (AP) — Deandre Ayton scored seven of his 32 points in overtime and grabbed 14 rebounds, lifting No. 15 Arizona to a 78-67 victory over UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals on Friday night.
Arizona (26-7) labored offensively before Ayton sparked the Wildcats in the second half. UCLA (21-11) matched Arizona nearly shot for shot, tying the game with about 5 minutes to go.
UCLA’s Jaylen Hands tied it at 67 on a drive with 8 seconds left in regulation and teammate Aaron Holiday’s runner at the buzzer was off the mark after an Arizona turnover.
Ayton dominated overtime and made 13 of 16 shots overall after struggling in the quarterfinals against Colorado.
The Wildcats get a chance to defend their Pac-12 tournament title against the Oregon-Southern California winner on Saturday.
Thomas Welsh had 17 points and 17 rebounds for the Bruins.
UCLA has boosted its NCAA Tournament hopes by winning eight of its last 11 games, including an 88-77 victory over Stanford in the Pac-12 quarterfinals. Holiday was superb in the win over the Cardinal with 34 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
The Bruins won the lone regular-season meeting against Arizona, handing the Wildcats their only home loss by shooting 52 percent in an 82-74 victory on Feb. 8.
UCLA shot well at the start of the semifinal and so did Arizona. Then neither team could get much to fall.
The Bruins shot 4 of 16 from the 3-point arc and led 30-26 at halftime. The Wildcats were 3 for 13 from 3 and were nearly outrebounded by Welsh, who had 11 to their 13.
Arizona came out of halftime a different team, hitting seven of its first nine shots while building a 44-38 lead in the opening five minutes.
Ayton was the trigger point , hitting Parker Jackson-Cartwright for a pair of corner 3s on kickouts and making his first five shots.
But for all the Wildcats did right offensively, the Bruins matched them nearly shot for shot. UCLA kept the Wildcats within reach and Kris Wilkes pulled the Bruins even at 60-all with a vicious dunk with just under 5 minutes left.
UCLA had no answer for Ayton and will have a somewhat anxious wait on Selection Sunday.
Arizona woke from an offensive slumber in the second half and rode the coattails of Ayton into the title game.
UCLA has to wait until Sunday to see if its resume is good enough to make the NCAA Tournament.
Arizona tries to repeat as Pac-12 tournament champions Saturday night.
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