Published December 26, 2012
| Sports Network
Honolulu, HI – Mark Lyons hit a pair of clutch free throws and Nick Johnson provided a game-saving block to help No.3 Arizona escape with a 68-67 victory over 17th-ranked San Diego State in the championship tilt of the Diamond Head Classic.
Solomon Hill scored a game-high 21 points and Kevin Parrom followed with 17 to help the Wildcats (12-0) stay undefeated.
"It took two great plays on both offense and defense to secure the win," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "And we made both of them."
Chase Tapley led the Aztecs (11-2) with 19 points and had a path to score the winning basket in the final seconds, but Johnson came from behind to swat his shot off the glass and secure the win for Arizona, which matched its best start to a season since 1987-88.
"I just have to tip my hat off to him." Tapley said of Johnson's block. "I didn't even know he was around. He just came out of nowhere. I'm thinking the game is over. The next thing you know, the ball is going off the backboard."
Xavier Thames poured in 11 points and Jamaal Franklin tallied nine points, eight rebounds and six assists for San Diego State, which saw its 11-game winning streak come to an end.
Despite Franklin, the Aztecs' season-leading scorer, being held scoreless in the first half, San Diego State trailed just 29-27 to start the second stanza.
However, Franklin scored the first points of the second half on a layup to spark an 8-0 run, which put San Diego State ahead 35-29.
Back-to-back buckets by Thames extended the Aztecs' edge to 41-33, but the Wildcats countered several minutes later.
Brandon Ashley scored on a layup and finished a three-point play around a pair of free throws from Johnson to bring Arizona within 45-44 before taking a brief one-point lead following a pair of Hill free throws at the 10:16 mark.
With under five minutes to play, Winston Shepard broke a 60-60 tie by splitting two free throws to give the Aztecs a one-point edge.
Parrom countered with a jumper at the other end, but Tapley buried a triple on the ensuing possession to give San Diego State a 64-62 advantage with 3:17 to go.
A minute later, Parrom drained a 3-pointer to put Arizona back on top 65-64, but Thames sank a pair from the line with 1:22 left to give San Diego State a one-point lead.
After Hill tied it by hitting 1-of-2 from the line, Franklin got fouled on a drive to the basket with 31.4 seconds to go. His first was too strong, but his second swished through to put the Aztecs on top 67-66.
Lyons held the ball at the top of the key for several seconds before driving to the basket and drawing a foul. He calmly sank both from the line to put the Aztecs ahead 68-67 with 13 ticks left.
On San Diego State's final possession, Tapley used a screen to get an open look at the basket, but Johnson rejected his layup off the glass to allow Arizona to escape with the win.
Tapley and Hill each scored 10 points during the first half for their respective teams, but the Wildcats held a two-point edge heading into the break.
Arizona leads the all-time series between the two schools 21-7 ... The Wildcats improved to 20-9 in games played in the state of Hawaii ... Franklin had his streak of scoring in double-figures come to an end at 32 games ... San Diego State moved to 9-11 in its last 20 games against AP top-25 teams.