Buffs continue Pac-12 title defense against Wildcats
Las Vegas, NV – The fifth-seed Colorado Buffaloes and the fourth-seed Arizona Wildcats will meet up in the postseason after contentious season series when they clash in the quarterfinals of Pac-12 Tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Thursday night.
Spencer Dinwiddie scored 20 points to carry the Buffaloes to a 74-68 win over Oregon State in the first round of the tourney. The win helped the Buffaloes recover from a 65-48 setback against the Beavers in the regular season finale. Colorado was the sixth seed last season when it ripped off a surprising run to the conference title in its first season in the Pac-12. The Buffaloes have won seven of their last 10 games as they go into this round.
Coming into the season the Wildcats were largely considered the run away favorites in the conference. They were just one of two conference teams ranked in the preseason top-25 but some inconsistent play in league action brought the Wildcats to just the fourth seed. Arizona still had a strong year overall (24-6) but had a pair of two-game losing streaks in the final eight games of the season that cost the team a shot at the regular-season crown. Arizona's has a league-leading four tournament titles but has failed to grab one in the last two years, despite reaching the finals each time.
The Wildcats were the No. 3 team in the country when these teams met the first time this season on Jan. 3. The Buffaloes nearly pulled off an upset in the game but Sabatino Chen's buzzer-beating shot was called off and Arizona survived in overtime. When the teams met in Boulder, Colorado exacted revenge with a 71-58 victory. The all-time series has been less contentious as the Wildcats have 56 wins in 76 total meetings.
Colorado never trailed in the second half against Oregon State and led by as many as 12 points during the period en route to the first-round victory. The Buffaloes' work on the glass is what really carried them as they had a 43-30 edge on the boards and an 18-12 advantage in second chance points.
Dinwiddie (15.4 ppg) has really come on in the second half of the year and certainly got the postseason off on the right foot. The 6-foot-5 guard has scored at least 18 points in five of the last eight games, reaching to 20 points four times during that span. Andre Roberson (10.7 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 2.2 spg, 1.4 bpg) missed the regular season finale with illness but managed 12 points and seven rebounds on Wednesday. Roberson is one of the more versatile players in the nation as he leads the country in rebounds, while leading the Pac-12 in steals. Askia Booker (12.6 ppg) has really been shooting poorly down the stretch but is still a decent scorer, while Josh Scott (10.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg) brings energy to the frontcourt.
Arizona went up against intrastate rival Arizona State in the season finale and grabbed a 73-58 victory at the McKale Center. Arizona had a 35-23 edge in rebounds and outscored the Sun Devils, 12-5, in second chance points. Nick Johnson scored a team-high 17 points in the victory.
Even with its inconsistencies down the stretch, Arizona still ended the regular season with a double-digit scoring margin (+10). The Wildcats ranked among the top three teams in the Pac-12 in points (73.4 pg) and field-goal percentage (.450) while holding foes to 41.6 percent field goal percentage. The two leads of the team, Mark Lyons (14.9 ppg) and Solomon Hill (13.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg) each had less than stellar ends to the regular season. Lyons had just eight points in the season finale and shot only 23.5 percent from the field in the last three games. Hill didn't collect more than four rebounds in each of the last four games, while falling out of double figures in two of those contests.