In what is seemingly becoming a pattern, Arizona opened up an early lead and never relented as it defeated Rhode Island 87-59 Tuesday night at McKale.
T.J. McConnell scored the first points for Arizona and Aaron Gordon and Brandon Ashley followed to quickly put Arizona up 6-0. Jarelle Reischel got Rhode Island on the board, but Gordon scored before the timeout as Arizona led 8-2 with 14:38 left in the first half.
Gordon proceeded to score out of the timeout, but Reischel and Biggie Minnis answered to cut the lead to 10-6 with 11:36 left in the half.
Johnson hit a three out of the timeout and Ashley followed with a two. Johnson then made one of his own before Xavier Munford responded. McConnell answered, but one free-throw from Munford cut it in half. The next time down court, Rondae Jefferson scored to put Arizona up 21-9 and Kaleb Tarczewski’s first points put Arizona up 14.
Munford scored again, but Tarczewski, Hollis-Jefferson, and Gabe York got consecutive baskets to force a timeout with the Wildcats up 29-11 with 4:33 left in the half.
Munford got a three-point play as Gordon scored soon after and Johnson picked up a three-point play. Hollis-Jefferson then made a three before Mike Aaman made a basket. After a free-throw by Ashley, Minnis made one of two from the line to make it 38-17 in favor of the Wildcats with 1:46 left in the first half.
After two free-throws by Munford, McConnell made a three and Ashley added two free-throws as the Wildcats went into the half up 43-19.
Gilvydas Biruta started the second half scoring, but it did not take long for Ashley to respond. Reischel then scored, but Ashley made two consecutive hoops before two free-throws from Mike Powell. Gordon responded with two at the line, Johnson hit a three and added two free-throws to extend the Arizona lead.
After a bucket by Minnis, Tarczewski scored and Minnis came down and scored again before Hollis-Jefferson scored off a putback to give Arizona the 60-30 lead with just under 14 minutes left in the half. Munford scored 30 seconds later and then added a three to cut Arizona’s lead to 25.
Ashley and E.C. Matthews exchanged one free-throw each before Tarczewski got a dunk. Munford hit one of two free-throws the next trip down the court and Biruta scored soon after as Arizona led 63-39 with about nine minutes left.
T.J. Buchanan got a three-point play and Munford two free-throws to continue Rhode Island’s 9-2 run. However, York hit a three from the left side as Munford made a two seconds later to put Arizona’s lead at 69-49 with 7:39 left.
Ashley and Biruta exchanged baskets as Hollis-Jefferson and Matthews both made two free-throws each. Johnson proceeded to hit a long jumper and picked up a three-point play to put Arizona back up 75-50 with 4:58 left in regulation.
Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson got consecutive baskets to put Arizona up 29, as Biruta scored after. A dunk by Johnson then forced a timeout by Rhode Island and put the exclamation mark on the Arizona victory.
With the win, Arizona advances to next Wednesday's semifinal against Drexel at Madison Square Garden.