Monday, March 03, 2014
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Arizona clinches outright Pac-12 title

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[March 03, 2014]  TUCSON, Ariz. -- If this was Aaron Gordon's last game at Arizona's McKale Center, he went out in style.

The Wildcats' freshman forward, who is widely expected to enter the NBA draft after this season, had 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds as No. 3 Arizona never trailed and clinched the outright Pac-12 regular-season title with a 79-66 victory over Stanford on Sunday night.

The crowd serenaded him with chants of "One more year; one more year" as he helped cut down a net after the team was presented with the Pac-12 championship trophy.

"It feels good, but it's not the final stop on our destination," Gordon said of the title. "This is just one."

Gordon posted his eighth double-double of the season and has made 22-of-33 shots in the past three games.

"He's starting to really hit his stride right now, and it's a great time for him to do that," Arizona coach Sean Miller said.

As for the draft, Gordon was non-committal, saying, "That's looking too far into the future."
 


The Wildcats (27-2, 14-2 Pac-12) ended their home season with an 18-0 record at McKale Center. They finish the regular season next week at Oregon State and Oregon.

Miller, in his fifth season, also led the Wildcats to the outright regular-season conference title in 2011. Arizona also was undefeated at home that season, going 17-0.

"I don't think enough credit is given to how difficult it is to win a regular-season championship," Miller said. "If you think about the hostile environments that we've played in front of and how long the season is, winning the regular-season championship is not something that we take lightly."

Stanford (18-10, 9-7 Pac-12) was swept on its Arizona trip this week.

"We came off a good game against UCLA, but we came down to Arizona and struggled," said Cardinal forward Josh Huestis. "I have no doubt that when we go home and get back in the gym, we will find a way to get back on track."

Huestis led the Cardinal with 22 points and 12 rebounds. It was his second double-double of the season against Arizona. Guard Anthony Brown scored 14 points for Stanford, and guard Chasson Randle and forward Dwight Powell each had 12.

Arizona led by double digits throughout the second half and by as many as 25, at 68-43, with 9:40 to go, on a nifty play by Gordon. As he drove across the lane, he faked a behind-the-back pass, pulled the ball back with his right hand and finished with a finger-roll.

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Point guard T.J. McConnell had 14 points for Arizona. Guard Gabe York added 12 points -- all in the second half. Guard Nick Johnson scored 11, and center Kaleb Tarczewski had 10.

Arizona, which has made an effort to play faster in recent weeks, has won its past three games -- at Colorado and at home against California and Stanford -- by a combined 68 points.

"They have experienced players out there with McConnell and Johnson, who have been through a lot and know how to play hard," said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins. "They're poised, they don't rush, they get good shots and they've been an outstanding defensive team all year."

Arizona took control at the start, using its defense to ignite the offense. The Wildcats turned three turnovers into six early points, including two on Gordon's dunk off an alley-oop pass from McConnell for a 10-3 lead with 16:04 to go.

Defense fueled one of the prettiest sequences of the first half for Arizona. Johnson got it started with a huge blocked shot to initiate a fast break. Gordon passed to forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who drove into the lane and got the ball back to Gordon on a bounce pass that split defenders. Gordon finished with a layup for a 28-17 lead with 6:54 left before halftime.

NOTES: Referee Verne Harris left the game with 16:24 to go, holding his left hamstring, which he appeared to injure early in the second half. He was laboring for a few possessions before stopping play so he could exit. A two-man crew officiated the rest of the game. ...Arizona senior G Jordin Mayes started in place of sophomore Gabe York in honor of Senior Night at McKale Center. Mayes, the team's only senior, entered the game averaging 1.2 points for the season and 3.6 for his career. It was his first start of the season and 17th of his career. ... Stanford played its first road game against a top-five team since losing at No. 3 UCLA on March 6, 2008. ... Danny Ainge, the Boston Celtics' president of basketball operations, attended the game. ... Stanford closes its regular season next week with home games against Colorado and Utah. ... Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, a three-time first-team All-Pac-10 player at Arizona, attended the game.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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