couldn't find his stroke until there were two minutes left in the game, but then he helped to seal Arizona
's win. (Jeff Gross/Getty)
For the first 37 minutes and 14 seconds of Arizona's Sweet 16 game with San Diego State on Thursday, Nick Johnson was held scoreless. He missed his first 10 attempts from the floor and couldn't get to the free throw line. When he finally made his first shot, a layup on a fast break, he put Arizona ahead by five. His next bucket came on the Wildcats next possession, a three that seemed the dagger with just 1:52 left. To remove any doubt, Johnson made all 10 of his free throw attempts in the final two minutes, icing the game and helping to send the Wildcats to the Elite Eight with a 70-64 win in the West Regional semifinals.
The season ends in disappointment yet again for the Aztecs. They were on the brink of their first-ever trip to the national quarterfinals, after being in the lead for the majority of the game. Johnson couldn't find the touch, and the Wildcats were in foul trouble from what seemed like the opening tip. San Diego State also dominated the glass, pulling down 38 total rebounds, half of which were offensive. The Aztecs never led by more than eight, but they appeared to be in control.
However, they couldn't find enough offense down the stretch, allowing Arizona to creep ahead and ultimately create some breathing room. San Diego State went seven minutes without a field goal, a stretch that lasted until there were fewer than two minutes remaining, and left them trailing by eight. By time Dwayne Polee knocked down a three to put an end to the drought and cut the deficit to five, there were only 73 seconds to play. All SDSU could do was foul and hope that the Wildcats would falter at the line. Johnson made sure that was not the case.
Despite not scoring for the first 92.5 percent of the game, Johnson tied for the Arizona team lead with 15 points. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon also had 15 apiece. Aztecs star Xavier Thames led all scorers with 25 points, but the Wildcats made him work for those, as he shot just 9-of-22 from the floor.
Arizona is in the Elite Eight for the first time since the 2011, when it lost to eventual national champion Connecticut. The Wildcats will play Wisconsin on Saturday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
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