NCAA Basketball Tournament Returns To Viejas Arena With Four Games
Arizona avoided becoming the latest and biggest upset victim in an NCAA tournament that's been filled with them.
The Wildcats will have to play a little better if they want to keep going in the bracket.
Nick Johnson scored 18 points, Aaron Gordon added 16 and top-seeded Arizona overcame a shaky start and a late run by Weber State to beat the Wildcats 68-59 in the West Regional on Friday.
The first full day of the tournament was a wild one filled with upsets, and the bracket-busting trend continued early Friday, when Mercer, a No. 14 seed, knocked off mighty Duke.
Arizona (31-4) appeared to be next in line, falling into an 8-point hole in the opening 6 minutes. Arizona closed in around Weber State (19-12), shutting down the Wildcats during two big first-half runs, seemingly putting the fairytale to bed.
Comfortably ahead, Arizona let off the gas late, allowing Weber State to trim a 21-point lead down to nine before pulling it out.
Solid, but not great, particularly since the next game — against Gonzaga or Oklahoma State on Sunday — is the spot the Wildcats have been picked to go down.
Weber State put up a fight in its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007, clearly not intimidated by Arizona and its cast of future NBA players. The Wildcats just didn't have the manpower to keep up with the long, athletic Cats during their big runs and nor did they have enough left climb all the way back after clawing back in the second half.
The second game will match Gonzaga (28-6), seeded eighth in the West, against ninth-seeded Oklahoma State (21-12).
The third game will be between Virginia Commonwealth (26-8), seeded fifth in the South Region, against 12th seeded Stephen F. Austin (31-2).
UCLA (26-8), seeded fourth in the South Region, will face 13th-seeded Tulsa (21-12) in the final game.
There are two players among the eight teams playing Friday from San Diego -- Tanner Clayton, a Stephen F. Austin reserve forward who graduated from Rancho Bernardo High School, and UCLA starting guard Norman Powell, an alumnus of Lincoln High School.
"As soon as we saw that we were the fourth seed playing in San Diego my phone was blowing up with text messages,'' from people excited about his playing in San Diego for the first time in his college career, Powell said.
A limited number of tickets for Friday's games went on sale at Thursday morning via Ticketmaster.com and NCAA.com.
The Arizona-Weber State and Gonzaga-Oklahoma State and Virginia Commonwealth-Stephen F. Austin and UCLA-Tulsa winners will meet Sunday. Ticket available for Sunday's games will be announced Saturday.
Tournament rules forbid teams from playing on their home turf, so the fourth-seeded Aztecs men's basketball team played 13th-seeded New Mexico State in the tournament's West Region in Spokane, Wash., Thursday night. The Aztecs defeated the Aggies 73-69 in overtime and are scheduled to play the 12th-seeded North Dakota State Bisons on Saturday in Spokane.
NCAA tournament games were also played at Viejas Arena in 2001 and 2006.
In 2006, the start of play was delayed for about an hour when bomb-sniffing dogs alerted security personnel to a possible hazard. In a last-minute sweep before fans were allowed to enter the arena, the dogs reacted to the metal service cabinet at a condiment stand as if it contained an explosive substance, authorities said.
Authorities cleared workers out of the arena and explosives experts were called in to investigate. A seven-member fire department bomb squad deployed a robotic device to check out the contents of the self-service table, finding plastic forks, knives, spoons and napkins.