LOS ANGELES — Point guard T.J. McConnell scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half, sparking second-seeded Arizona to a 68-60 victory over sixth-seeded Xavier in an NCAA West Regional semifinal Thursday night at Staples Center.
Forward Stanley Johnson and center Kaleb Tarczewski each scored 12 points for the Wildcats (34-3), and Tarczewski added 12 rebounds. Arizona will meet top-seeded Wisconsin (34-3) on Saturday for a berth in the Final Four.
Center Matt Stainbrook had 17 points and 10 boards for Xavier (23-14).
Xavier had the edge in a tightly contested second half until the Wildcats rallied late in the game. Arizona held a seven-point lead with about two minutes remaining before the Musketeers cut the deficit to 64-60 after a 3-point basket by sophomore guard Myles Davis with 1:31 left. However, Xavier never scored again.
McConnell iced the win with two free throws with 32.9 seconds remaining. Forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added two more to cap the scoring.
Two free throws by McConnell tied the score at 53 with 6:11 remaining before Tarczewski made a pair of foul shots for the lead at 5:27, and the Wildcats never trailed again.
Xavier guard Dee Davis, who scored 12 points, made one of two free throws with 4:28 left, but McConnell’s 3-point bucket put the Wildcats up 58-54.
Tarczewski picked up his fourth personal after fouling Stainbrook with 3:51 remaining. The 6-foot-10 Stainbrook made one of two fouls shots before fouling Arizona forward Brandon Ashley on the other end. Ashley converted his two foul shots for a 60-55 Wildcats lead with 3:36 left.
Ashley hit a jumper to make it 62-57 for Arizona with 2:46 left. It was all the Wildcats needed.
The score was 28-28 at intermission as the teams completed a sluggish first half. The Wildcats led by as much as six early on, but the Musketeers rallied. Xavier also held Arizona without a field goal during the final 3:51 of the half. The Wildcats made just two shots from the floor over the last 7:55 before halftime.
Stainbrook and Johnson each scored 10 points in the first half to lead all scorers. Xavier forward Jalen Reynolds came off the bench to score six first-half points, but neither team had more than one other player score more than four points before the break.
Xavier outshot Arizona 46.4 percent to 37.5 percent in the opening half. Both teams had a rough go of it from 3-point range, with the Wildcats missing nine of their 13 attempts while the Musketeers misfired on all seven of theirs. Xavier committed five turnovers to six by Arizona prior to halftime.
For the game, Arizona shot 40.7 percent from the floor, and Xavier finished at 43.1 percent.
NOTES: Xavier coach Chris Mack was an assistant to Arizona’s Sean Miller when the latter was head coach for the Musketeers. The two men remain close friends. Miller guided Xavier to four NCAA Tournament trips in his five seasons as coach. … This was the first meeting between the two schools. … The Musketeers advanced to the Sweet 16 with wins over Ole Miss and Georgia State. The Wildcats knocked off Texas Southern and Ohio State last weekend.