LAS VEGAS—The Arizona Wildcats won their first Pac-12 Tournament game in four years, but whether it can win another might depend on the health of a vital piece of the puzzle.
Christian Koloko scored a career-high 24 points and Bennedict Mathurin had 20 as top-seeded Arizona held off No. 9 Stanford 84-80 in the Pac-12 tourney quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon at T-Mobile Arena.
The UA (29-3) will fourth-seeded Colorado, an 80-69 winner over No. 5 Oregon, Friday at 7 p.m. MT in the Pac-12 semifinals. And it might have to do so without sophomore point guard Kerr Kriisa, who suffered an apparent right ankle injury in the final minute of play.
“It’s a sprained ankle of some kind,” coach Tommy Lloyd said. “I have no idea the severity of it, or anything like that, but obviously it’s a quick turnaround. So it’ll be tough, we’ll just play it by ear.”
Kriisa, who had 10 points, five assists and three 3-pointers, moving into a tie for eighth on the single-season school list with 78, crumpled to the ground under the UA basket with the Wildcats up 80-77. After he was helped off the court and into the locker room, the Wildcats went up five on a dunk by Koloko, who was 10 of 12 from the field.
Stanford’s Harrison Ingram hit a 3 on the other end to cut it to 82-80 with 12 seconds left, but Pelle Larsson hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to ice the game with 8.5 seconds to go.
The UA shot 47.7 percent and made nine 3-pointers while Stanford shot 54.2 percent, including 58.1 percent in the second half. The Cardinal (16-16) were 11 of 20 from 3, making 9 of their first 11, with Spencer Jones hitting 4 of 7 as part of a career-high 28 points while Ingram had 16.
“Jones is on fire right now,” Lloyd said. “To overcome a performance like that in an elimination game is pretty special.”
Arizona led 40-37 at the half, upping it to five on its first possession, but Stanford hit three consecutive triples to go up 46-42 with 18:04 to go. The Cardinal started 6 of 7 from the field, the only miss an airballed 3 by Jones.
The UA retook the lead at 53-52 on a Mathurin transition basket with 14:45 left, but Jones scored on three straight possessions to put Stanford ahead 59-58 with 11:50 remaining.
A series of 11 lead changes and one tie over a 7-minutes span ended when Arizona scored five straight on a Kriisa 3 and two Koloko free throws to go ahead 70-65 with 6:34 remaining. Before that, Larsson hit a 3-pointer after drawing a charge on the other end, keeping Stanford from going up two scores.
A 6-0 Stanford run put it back up 73-72 with 4:28 remaining on a jumper by Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Ingram, starting another run of lead changes before Mathurin scored on a putback and Koloko cleaned up underneath to build a 78-75 edge with 1:59 to go.
“I’m just taking what the defense gave me,” Koloko said.
Much like it did last week in Tucson, Stanford came out hot from 3-point range. Michael O’Connell drained a pair of triples in the first three minutes, and the Cardinal made 6 of 8 from outside in the first half.
Stanford took its first lead with 7:06 left in the first half on a jumper by Jones, which came after Koloko was called for an offensive foul on the other end. The Cardinal went up 34-30 with 3:29 to go as Arizona went nearly four minutes without scoring.
But the Wildcats scored 10 points over the final 2:34, including a half-ending 8-0 run that featured Mathurin 3s on consecutive possessions to give the lead back to the UA.
Arizona avoided being the first No. 1 seed to lose in its first Pac-12 game since Washington in 2012. It now gets a chance to avenge its last loss, a 79-63 setback to the Buffaloes (21-10) on Feb. 26.