Arizona demolished Miami 69-50 in the semifinals at the Diamond Head Classic Sunday in Honolulu, Hawaii. The victory kept the fourth-ranked Wildcats perfect on the season. It also marked coach Sean Miller’s 200th career victory.
Senior Arizona forward Solomon Hill
Arizona (11-0, 2-0 away) overcame Miami’s physical play early on to turn a two point deficit into a convincing 37-25 halftime advantage. Led by Mark Lyons’ 19 points and four assists, the Wildcats dismantled Miami’s man-to-man defense by sinking eight 3-Pointers as part of a 25-for-52 shooting night from the floor.
The Hurricanes (8-2, 0-0 ACC) entered the game on a seven-game winning streak and allowing opponents to shoot just 35.8 percent from the floor. Arizona would have none of that, however, as they shot 51.9 percent from the floor in the opening frame. In fact, the Wildcats, also known for their stubborn defense, flipped the script on Miami by holding the Hurricans to just 36.5 percent shooting (19-for-52).
Arizona built and protected a 14-point advantage early in the second half, highlighted by a back-down and spin-away jump shot by Solomon Hill near the low block to lead 47-33 with 15:10 remaining. From there the Wildcats continued to stretch its lead.
A put-back dunk by Kaleb Tarczewski put Arizona ahead 50-34. Moments later, an assist by Zeus on a touch pass to Kevin Parrom resulted in a trey that answered a 3-Point make by Miami’s Shane Larken. A 3-Pointer by Lyons with 9:55 to go extended Arizona’s advantage to 56-37, leaving little in doubt except the game’s final score.
Tarczewski posted a career-high 13 rebounds to go along with eight points. Nick Johnson scored 12 for the Wildcats while Parrom joined Johnson and Lyons in double figures with 11 points. The senior forward also had eight rebounds and two steals.
Arizona led by as many as 26 points late before closing out the Hurricanes, 69-50. The story of the night was Arizona’s rebounding. The Wildcats stifled Miami shooters all night, but made the most of their defensive stops by pulling down 32 defensive rebounds. Impressively, Arizona also tallied 12 offensive boards to finish the game with a decisive 44-19 rebounding edge.
Kenny Kadji scored 19 for the Hurricanes. Durand Scott and Larkin combined for 25 points and nine steals in the loss.
The Wildcats continued to struggle in the turnover department as the Hurricanes produced 14 steals as part of Arizona’s 16 turnovers.
The win moves Arizona into the tournament title game where they’ll face the San Diego State Aztecs. SDSU (11-1) defeated Indiana State in their semifinal game, 62-55. The No. 18 Aztecs are led by the scoring trio of Jamaal Franklin (17.8 ppg), Chase Tapley (15.8) and Xavier Thames (10.4). Franklin led SDSU with 19 points Sunday afternoon in leading the Aztecs past the Sycamores. Tapley and Thames finished with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
The Diamond Head Classic championship game will tip on Christmas Day at 9:30 p.m. EST.
Follow me on Twitter @GaryRandazzo, and follow the website @WSRArizona.
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