Sweet 16 - The battle for supremacy in the West is set - The Explorer: Sports

Sweet 16 - The battle for supremacy in the West is set

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Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 1:37 pm

Top-seeded Arizona and No. 4 seed San Diego State will meet Thursday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The winner not only moves on to the West Regional final, but also adds another notch to what has become an annual meeting in recent years.

It will mark the 10th meeting between the programs since 2002, including each of the last three years, and the second this season. The Wildcats grinded out a 69-60 road win over the Aztecs in an early-season contest last November.

Among SDSU's wins in the head-to-head is a 61-57 decision at McKale Center on Nov. 23, 2011 - otherwise known as Arizona's last regular-season nonconference home loss.

"A lot of people are saying it's a rivalry," UA senior guard Jordin Mayes said, ironically in the SDSU home locker room after Arizona dismantled Gonzaga, 84-61, in the third round of the NCAA tournament. "All I know is it's a hard-fought game every time we play them. We know that they're going to come out ready. We're both good, defensive teams so we have to come out ready on the offensive end, also. It's going to be a battle we're looking forward to."

The last time Arizona and San Diego State met, freshman Aaron Gordon (left) provided the signature moment by catching and finishing this in-bound lob with 1:22 play. It helped propel the Wildcats to a 69-60 road win in early November.

Each of the last three games have been decided by single digits, and the most recent clash was the start to Arizona's nonconference gauntlet - although, SDSU was not ranked at the time but ultimately finished 13th in the Associated Press Top 25 and 11th in the final coaches' poll.

Then, the Wildcats were the No. 6 team in the country. Viejas Arena, the same floor the Wildcats steamrolled Gonzaga on to advance to the Sweet 16, was the site of Aaron Gordon's first signature performance in his collegiate career.

Gordon made his first five shots - including a pair of 3-pointers - before foul trouble slowed him and the Wildcats down. Four UA players picked up four fouls, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was disqualified with five.

Trailing by as many as 14 late in the first half, the Aztecs chipped away and pulled within 62-58 on a Xavier Thames layup with 1:52 remaining.

But it was Gordon to the rescue. With 1:22 left, the freshman's athleticism helped him soar over Dakarai Allen on an in-bounds lob from T.J. McConnell for the dagger.

Gordon finished with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go with eight rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocks.

"Aaron Gordon is a good player," Aztecs head coach Steve Fisher said that night. "I knew that, you knew that - the whole world knew that. He doesn't play like a freshman."

How tough was the victory? SDSU had won 40 of its 41 nonconference home games, and after the loss the Aztecs reeled off 20 consecutive victories and jumped to as high as No. 5 in the polls.

Picked to finish fourth in the preseason Mountain West Conference poll, SDSU claimed the regular-season crown before losing to New Mexico in the conference tournament championship game.

Arizona followed a similar path, dominating the Pac-12 before falling in a tournament title game classic to UCLA.

Most recently, the Aztecs are coming off Thames' 30 points and five assists in a 63-44 third-round win over No. 12 seed North Dakota State in Spokane, Wash.

With a number of battles over the years - including one of the more humbling losses, a 63-46 blowout in his first season in December 2009 - UA head coach Sean Miller said the respect is there.

"I've really followed them for two reasons," Miller said. "One, nobody respects San Diego State more than myself. Coach Fisher, what he's done here is nothing short of remarkable. It reminds me of Xavier, Dayton, Creighton, some of the schools in the midwest that, in my mind, maybe get more notoriety. But San Diego State also has my attention, and also because we played them early in the year (and) you want them to win every game because that helps you.

"They're fearless, tough‑minded. It's going to be one heck of a battle and I'm glad to have the opportunity

Get all our UA Wildcats news at www.goazcats.com

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Tuesday, September 16

Boys Golf (@ 3 p.m.)

Buena, Cienega at Marana

Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge, Catalina at Amphi (Silverbell GC)

Catalina Foothills, Pueblo, Sahuarita at Sahuaro

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

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Girls Golf (@ 3 p.m.)

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Ironwood Ridge, Desert View at Flowing Wells (Silverbell)

Cross Country (@4:30)

Salpointe at Catalina Foothills

Palo Verde, Nogales at Marana

Rincon, St. Gregory at CDO

Sahuarita, Pueblo, Pusch Ridge at Desert View

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Empire at Marana (4:30, 5:30, 6:30)

CDO at Queen Creek

Cienega at Mountain View

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Thursday, September 18

Girls Golf

CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Boys Golf

Sahuaro and Salpointe at Ironwood Ridge

CDO, Rincon, Sunnyside at Tucson High

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Marana at Sahuarita

Ironwood Ridge at Sahuaro (4:30, 5:30, 6:30)

Catalina Foothills at Rincon

Pusch Ridge at San Manuel

Swimming (4 p.m.)

Marana vs. Tucson at Quincy Douglas Pool

Cienega at Marana

CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Amphi

Catalina Foothills at Sahuaro

Freshman Football (all games at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Flowing Wells at Marana (4 p.m.)

Desert View at Mountain View

Cienega at CDO

Ironwood Ridge at Buena

Catalina Foothills at Sahuarita

JV Football (all games at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Amphi at Marana

Santa Cruz Valley at Pusch Ridge

Mountain View at Desert View

CDO at Cienega

Buena at Ironwood Ridge

Sahuarita at Catalina Foothills

Friday, September 19

Boys Golf

Catalina Foothills, Ironwood Ridge, CDO, at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Cross Country

Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge at Mt. Carmel Invitational (San Diego, CA)

Girls Volleyball

CDO at Westwood Tournament of Champions

Football (@7 p.m.)

Pusch Ridge at Santa Cruz Valley

Catalina at Marana

Desert Vista at Mountain View

Ironwood Ridge at Buena

Cienega at CDO

Catalina Foothills at Sahuarita

Saturday, September 20

Boys Golf

Catalina Foothills, Ironwood Ridge, CDO, at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Cross Country

Marana at Old Pueblo Invite(Lincoln Park)

Mountain View at San Diego

Catalina Foothills, CDO at Ojo Rojo (Chandler, AZ)


Marana at Wolves Classic (Chandler High)

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