Nov 27, 2014 12:54 AM
Wildcats beat Aztecs 61-59 for Maui title
The Associated Press
LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) Stanley Johnson had 18 points and nine rebounds, helping No. 3 Arizona gut out a 61-59 victory over No. 15 San Diego State on Wednesday night for its second Maui Invitational title.
Arizona (6-0) survived a stiff semifinal challenge against Kansas State and faced a bigger one against the athletic Aztecs (5-1).
The Wildcats traded blows in this heavyweight bout in paradise, coming up with the big plays down the stretch to win their 33rd straight regular-season non-conference game.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson gave Arizona his usual exuberant boost and scored 14 points, while the Wildcats closed in around San Diego State defensively in the second half to add to the Maui title they won in 2000.
Trey Kell had a four-point play with 17 seconds to go and Winston Shepard hit a 3 with less than a second left, but it wasn't enough for the Aztecs.
Kell and Shepard had 14 points each to lead San Diego State, which made 11 of 29 shots in the second half.
An Arizona-San Diego State title game was what college basketball fans hoped for when the Maui Invitational brackets came out.
San Diego State got here by outlasting BYU in double overtime and dominating Pittsburgh in the semifinals.
Arizona pulled away from Missouri in its opener and pulled out a tight one against Kansas State.
That set up a marquee matchup in a budding rivalry.
Arizona has gotten the best of SDSU in recent years, winning three straight, including a thriller in Honolulu in 2012 and the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament last season.
The game lived up to the under-the-spotlight billing, two athletic teams trading baskets, elbows and floor burns in front of a packed-and-rowdy Lahaina Civic Center crowd.
San Diego State was in control early, patiently and effectively probing Arizona's defense. The Aztecs made 10 of 19 shots in the half.
The Wildcats kept up with volume shooting, fueled by their ability to get to the offensive glass. Arizona made 11 of 33 shots, but had 13 points off 11 offensive rebounds, including five by Johnson.
That allowed Arizona to lead 32-31 at halftime despite Gabe York and T.J. McConnell sitting late in the half with three fouls each.
Little changed in the second half, other than Arizona's shooting percentage.
The Aztecs and Wildcats continued to trade athletic plays, neither able to gain much traction on the other, tension building with each basket or swatted shot.
Hollis-Jefferson gave Arizona a little room blocking a 3-pointer by Dwayne Polee II and racing out for a breakaway dunk that made it 53-49.
The Wildcats held on from there barely.
San Diego State: Polee finished with 11 points.
Arizona: Johnson accidentally knocked over a ballboy during a first-half timeout, drawing boos from the San Diego State fans on that end of the floor. Shepard helped the kid off the floor.
San Diego State plays at San Diego on Dec. 4.
Arizona hosts Gardner-Webb on Tuesday night.