LAS VEGAS (AP) — Brandon Ashley scored 24 points and Arizona withstood a late rally to beat UCLA 70-64 in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals Friday night.
Arizona (30-3) sputtered against UCLA’s zone for long stretches before putting together a 15-0 run in the second half as the huge contingent of Arizona fans made the MGM Grand Arena feel like a home game for the Wildcats.
UCLA (20-13) clawed its way back, pulling within 66-64 behind a 3-pointer by Norman Powell and another by Kevon Looney with 19 seconds left.
T.J. McConnell and Ashley each hit two free throws after that, though, sending the Wildcats into Saturday’s championship game against Oregon or No. 17 Utah.
McConnell finished with 10 points and 11 assists.
Powell finished with 21 points and Tony Parker added 15 for the Bruins, who now must wait for Selection Sunday to see if they’ll get into the NCAA Tournament.
UCLA’s Isaac Hamilton, who scored 36 points in the quarterfinals, fouled out and was limited to six points in 15 minutes. UCLA ended Arizona’s bid to win the regular-season and tournament titles a year ago, beating the Wildcats in the championship game.
Arizona raced past California in the quarterfinals after a slow-starting first half and UCLA blew past rival USC into the semifinals.
The Wildcats won the teams’ lone meeting 57-47 on Feb. 21 in a gritty game. Arizona’s starters struggled — outscored 24-0 in runs to open each half — and the Wildcats got an unexpected lifts from Dusan Ristic and Gabe York, who combined for 25 points.
Arizona had no trouble getting going in the semifinals, jumping out to an 11-2 lead in the opening four minutes.
Then it was back to struggling against UCLA’s zone and finishing at the rim, with usually-efficient McConnell turning it over four times.
Arizona turned it back for a little while, going on a small run after Hamilton and Parker each went to the bench with three fouls. UCLA fought back and tied the game at 27 after Alford turned a steal into a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
The Bruins fed off the last-second shot, making seven of their first 10 shots to build a 47-40 lead.
But then, with a flick of a switch, Arizona turned McKale Center West into a mosh pit, ear-ringing roars coming with each made shot during the 15-0 run that put the Wildcats up 55-47.
Powell shot the Bruins back into it, hitting a big 3-pointer from the corner and finding Parker under the basket with 1:02 left, but the Bruins couldn’t finish it off.
UCLA: Looney played while wearing a clear mask after suffering a facial injury against USC. He had five points.
Arizona: Ashley was 5 for 6 from the floor for 12 points in the first half, while his teammates went a combined 4 of 19. … Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 12 rebounds.
UCLA: must wait until Sunday to see if it will get an NCAA Tournament invite.
Arizona: faces the winner between Oregon and No. 17 Utah in Saturday’s championship game.
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