Arizona’s defense — or perceived lack thereof — muted the Wildcats’ victory celebration for their NCAA tournament opener.
PORTLAND — Arizona’s defense — or perceived lack thereof — muted the Wildcats’ victory celebration for their NCAA tournament opener.
The second seed in the West jumped out early and cruised to a 93-72 victory over No. 15 seed Texas Southern on Thursday. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson led the Wildcats with 23 points — 16 in the first half — and 10 rebounds.
While Arizona was efficient overall, coach Sean Miller suggested the team’s defense wasn’t where it should be.
“I think the point is that we have to get back to being an excellent defensive team, which takes a lot of effort and concentration,” he said. “We certainly can do it. But whoever we play in the next round we know is going to be a formidable opponent. We want to make sure when that game ends we feel good about what we did, especially on defense.”
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Senior guard T.J. McConnell called it Arizona’s worst defensive effort of the season. Forward Brandon Ashley said that even with the sizable lead, the Wildcats know better than to let up on defense in the tournament.
“We have to make sure we’re locked in and focused,” Ashley said. “Because at this point anybody in this tournament has the ability to beat you. We can’t take anyone lightly.”
Offensively, it was another story: Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Stanley Johnson added 22 points for the Wildcats (32-3), who led by as many as 27 points at Portland’s Moda Center.
Arizona goes on to meet No. 10 seed Ohio State on Saturday.
Madarious Gibbs had 15 points for Texas Southern (22-13), which won an automatic bid as the winner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament.
Arkansas 56, Wofford 53
In Jacksonville, Fla., Michael Qualls scored 20 points, Southeastern Conference player of the year Bobby Portis added 15 points and 13 rebounds, and the fifth-seeded Razorbacks (27-8) held off the No. 12 seed Terriers (28-7).
Ohio St. 75, VCU 72 (OT)
In Portland, D’Angelo Russell scored 28 points and rallied Ohio State (24-10) from an early 12-point deficit as the 10th-seeded Buckeyes beat seventh-seeded Virginia Commonwealth (26-10) in overtime.
Xavier 76, Mississippi 57
In Jacksonville, Fla., Matt Stainbrook scored 20 points, Dee Davis added 17 and sixth-seeded Xavier (22-13) beat No. 11 seed Mississippi (21-13). Stainbrook took advantage of his size in the post, making 8 of 10 shots in the paint and adding nine rebounds and five assists.
North Carolina 67, Harvard 65
In Jacksonville, Fla., Justin Jackson hit a tying jumper in the final minute, and then had a fast-break dunk to help fourth-seeded North Carolina edge the Crimson (22-8). The Tar Heels (25-11) wasted a 16-point lead in the second half and briefly trailed before Jackson came to the rescue.