LAS VEGAS — Dusan loves Tucson. And Las Vegas, too.
Dusan Ristic posted 16 points and 11 rebounds as the No. 1-seeded Arizona Wildcats beat the eighth-seeded Colorado Buffaloes, 83-67, in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday at T-Mobile Arena.
Arizona (25-7) will face the winner of the UCLA-Stanford game Friday in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals at 6 p.m. PT.
The Wildcats and Buffaloes were nip-and-tuck throughout the day until Ristic went on a personal 6-0 run that extended Arizona’s lead from 46-41 to 52-41 with 10:45 left in regulation.
Frustration built for Colorado and it was assessed a technical after CU’s Dominique Collier got tangled up with Parker Jackson-Cartwright near mid-court, which led to a minor scuffle involving Ristic.
“I saw Collier grab Parker’s foot. I got mad. It was a cheap foul,” Ristic said. “Obviously Parker is my brother. We’ve played here for four years and when something like that happens, I get emotional.”
Allonzo Trier knocked down both technical free throws, and Jackson-Cartwright split his pair to put Arizona up 55-41.
Ristic then made two free throws to put Arizona up 57-41, and a 3-pointer by Rawle Alkins would put Arizona up 61-43 with 9:01 left, its largest lead of the game.
The Buffaloes were able to trim their deficit to 10 with 2:51 left, but would not get any closer as Trier made two free throws, then scored at the rim to push UA’s lead back to 14.
Trier had a game-high 22 points on just 9 shots. Alkins finished with 12 points, while Jackson-Cartwright had 14 points, scoring eight in the first half.
That trio and Ristic buoyed the Wildcats as Deandre Ayton uncharacteristically struggled, posting just 10 points and 6 rebounds on 4-of-14 shooting in his first postseason game.
“Obviously we have to have that when we play in the tournament, especially when we play three games in three days. You have to have all players ready to step up and impact the game because it’s going to be a long three days for us,” Ristic said. “We came here to play three games and when something like that happens today, it could be a good thing for us because tomorrow is a new day and we’ll have Deandre back and he’s gonna play much better tomorrow than he did today.”
Ayton fouled out with 3:34 left. He was given a technical foul early in the second half after being called for an offensive foul.
“I was rushing all my shots,” he said. “I wasn’t taking my time down low.”
The Buffaloes shot 54 percent or better in the first two games between these teams, but Arizona held them to 42 shooting in this one, including a 39-percent mark in the second half.
Arizona shot 44 percent overall and 7-of-18 from 3. Colorado was just 5-of-20 from 3, despite shooting 13 of 21 from that range against ASU on Wednesday.
“I thought our ball screen defense was good. Our team defense was good,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “We had a lot of players working together. I didn’t really look at them having a lot of great looks that they missed. I think our defense was intact.”
Limiting turnovers was a point of emphasis for Arizona heading into the postseason, and it won the turnover battle against Colorado, 15-8.
Arizona also did a nice job controlling the glass, out-rebounding CU 36-27. The Buffaloes only had two second-chance points.
Colorado sorely missed McKinley Wright IV, who missed much of the second half after he suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury. He tried to walk it off on the sideline, but to no avail. Eventually, he left for the locker room.
Wright scored eight points in 22 minutes. He had 20 vs. ASU on Wednesday.
“Their offensive performance yesterday really got our attention,” Miller said. “So for us it was a real big defensive challenge, and they had a lot of players playing with confidence. Obviously when McKinley Wright went down, that certainly hurt them.
“But I really liked our defense, especially in the second half. Eleven steals might be a season high. We had plenty of transition opportunities because of our defense, and that’s when we’re at our best.”
Arizona led 35-33 at halftime, thanks to 12 first-half points from Trier and eight from Jackson-Cartwright.
While Arizona had a solid defensive outing, it got off to a slow start on that end, which allowed Colorado to jump out to a 14-8 lead after a Lucas Siewert 3.
Siewert then completed an old-fashioned 3-point play to put the Buffaloes up 17-12 with 11:52 left in the first half.
But with the help from a trio of 3s, the Wildcats broke off a 15-2 run to take a 27-19 lead with 5:57 left.
That was Arizona’s largest lead of the half, but it quickly vanished as Colorado was able to tie the game at 29 and later at 31.
Trier then scored four straight points, followed by a Namon Wright layup to end the half.
Arizona outscored Colorado 48-34 in the second half.
This story will be updated. Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire