It’s been said that “as goes Nick Johnson, so go the Wildcats,” and it surely seemed that way Thursday night. The junior guard missed his first ten shots and was held scoreless before finally getting his first bucket with under three minutes to go in the second half. Johnson then stayed hot to score fifteen of the Wildcats final sixteen points, including a perfect ten in row from the foul line. While Johnson struggled in the first half, freshmen forwards Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson kept Sean Miller’s squad in the game, each finishing with 15 points.
While many teams would have thrown in the towel after relinquishing a lead late, the Aztecs never quit. Junior guard Xavier Thames never looked fazed, hitting a must-make three, then a layup, and then three straight free throws after a heady play drawing a foul on a pump fake attempt from behind the arc. Steve Fisher’s leader finished the game with 25 points and the admiration of anyone not already familiar with the Mountain West Conference stand-out. Super sixth-man Dwayne Polee–who didn’t even play in the teams’ first meeting–scored 13 points off the bench, including a desperation three late. The Aztecs’ impressive effort was ultimately undone by their inability to force a turnover or foul a low-percentage free-throw-shooter in the final minute.
The West Region’s top seed has another difficult task ahead of them, as they go on to face the 2nd-seeded Wisconsin Badgers in Sunday’s Elite 8 contest.
Ted Robinson and Bill Frieder called the action on WestwoodOne Sports.