Anaheim, Calif., Nov. 28, 2019 – Arizona didn’t have to travel coast-to-coast to participate in the Wooden Legacy the way some teams had to.
But freshman Nico Mannion knows a long-distance drive when he sees one.
Taking the ball the length of the floor in a tie game, the point guard drove downcourt, couldn’t find an open shooter, and hit a running bank shot with 2.1 seconds left to lift the No. 14 Wildcats to a wild 93-91 victory in the opening round at the Anaheim Arena.
“They ended up tying it up and I looked up at the clock and saw 7 seconds, trying to go coast-to-coast,” Mannion said. “I knew I wasn’t going to get a layup with the big guy on my left so I just floated it up and it ended up going in.”
Pepperdine (3-4) had tied the game at 91-91 on floater in the lane from guard Colbey Ross. That bucket was the 13th tie of a game that included 24 lead changes.
“If you can steal a win, that’s maybe how I’d describe tonight,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “Not that we didn’t deserve it, but that game could have gone either way.
“It makes it a little bit better to be able to learn these types of lessons from a game like tonight and still having won.”
Arizona had taken a 91-89 lead on a dunk by Zeke Nnaji off a touch pass from Josh Green with 19 seconds left.
“We took a gamble and lost, we rolled the dice and lost,” Pepperdine coach Lorenzo Romar said. “What we didn’t want to happen is we take the last shot. If we don’t make the shot, the game’s over, we have no way to try another shot. We wanted to give it enough time to where if we missed, we could foul and get the ball back again. Nico hit a runner, a big-time shot, that I thought was pretty well defended. Nico’s a really good player.”
Arizona (7-0), playing outside of the McKale Center in Tucson for the first time, will take on Penn in Friday’s semifinals. Pepperdine will meet UCF.
Freshman Josh Green scored 24 points to lead Arizona, making 4 of 5 3-pointers. During one stretch of a 13-2 run, Green connected on three consecutive 3-pointers before the Waves started chipping away again.
Mannion had 16 points and nine assists and freshman forward Zeke Nnaji had 16 points and 11 rebounds. The veteran of the group, senior Dylan Smith, scored 16 points with four 3-pointers for Arizona, which connected on 72 percent of its shots in the second half and 60.7 percent for the game.
Forward Kameron Edwards led the Waves with 21 points. Ross had 20 points and nine assists and guard Skylar Chavez hit five 3-pointers to add 20 points. The Waves shot 50.8 percent for the game and made 18 of 19 free throws.
Chavez hit two 3-pointers and two free throws as the Waves ran off nine consecutive points to pull within 69-66. They would grab the lead three more times before the dramatic finish.
“That was a heck of a ballgame,” Romar said. “Give our guys a lot of credit just for fighting. That’s what we talk about, fighting and competing. We made too many mistakes to overcome an Arizona team that is really good.”
Penn 68, UCF 67 – To say Penn escaped by a toenail is no mere exaggeration. The Quakers survived a shot at the buzzer that was turned from a 3-pointer into a 2-pointer after video review to advance to the semifinals.
Penn (4-2) made its final seven shots in the game, shot 51.1 percent from the field and led for 25 1/ 2 minutes but only escaped when Darin Green Jr.’s swish from the corner couldn’t force overtime because his toe was on the 3-point line.
“It was an extremely hard-fought game,” said Penn coach Steve Donahue, whose team will meet undefeated Arizona in Friday’s semifinals. “They made some great adjustments in guarding us and making it really hard for us to run a continuous offense and turned us over 22 times. That being said, I thought we persevered when we had to and executed when we had to win the game.”
The spearhead for the Quakers was forward AJ Brodeur, who had 23 points and did his best to muscle up on 6-foot-1 UCF center Collin Smith. Guard Ryan Betley had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Devon Goodman had 19 points and five assists.
Smith had 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Knights (3-2), who have trailed with 10 minutes to go in all of their games and won three of them.
“We’ve been in that situation in every game we’ve played this year, so it was nothing new to our players to understand there’s a lot of game and a lot of time left,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. “We just need to play one possession at a time.”
Guard Dazon Ingram also chipped in with a 17-point, 13-rebound and 5-assist effort for UCF, which takes on Pepperdine Friday.