The Belmont Bruins were the trendy upset pick in this year’s NCAA tournament against an unpredictable Arizona team known historically for being upset in the first round.
But Arizona laid down the hammer and defeated Belmont in the West Regional 81-64 on Thursday. Arizona lost three times to the UCLA Bruins during the regular season, which resulted in the Wildcats getting a lower seed.
Arizona’s Mark Lyons had 23 points and three other Wildcats had 12 in a balanced attack. Arizona again showed that it has the talent to beat any team in the country. They also lack the focus, at times, to play down to their competition, which almost brought the Bruins back into the game. Arizona’s Nick Johnson showed the poise that makes him an on-court leader. And Arizona’s Solomon Hill disrupted Belmont’s offense. Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark had 22 and 21 points for Belmont, respectively.
With Arizona leading by 20 with 6 minutes left, Arizona got sloppy and allowed 9 straight points in less than a minute, and Belmont cut the lead down to eleven before Arizona finally put the game on ice.
Belmont was one of the best teams in the nation shooting three pointers while Arizona was the worst in the Pac-12 defending against threes, but Belmont was only 8 of 27 from behind the three-point line.
Arizona now potentially faces New Mexico (if the Lobos beat Harvard) on Saturday in a colossal matchup of the most talented teams in the Pac-12 and Mountain West Conference, respectively.
The two schools have two of the most rabid fan bases in college basketball and the potential battle will also be a grudge match between the Pac-12 Conference and the Mountain West Conference.