Tuesday's game between Arizona and San Diego State was everything that it was supposed to be.
It featured good defense, players stepping up, and spectacular plays.
However, no play was as spectacular as Nick Johnson's block on Chase Tapley that helped Arizona win the Diamond Head Classic 68-67.
Brandon Ashley hit one of two free throws to start the game and Solomon Hill hit a jumper to put Arizona up 3-0 before DeShawn Stephens hit one free-throw before the media timeout of 15:58 of the first half. Out of the timeout, J.J. O’Brien was able to make the Aztecs’ first field goal. However, Kevin Parrom came up with a nice drive down the middle of the lane and Hill hit a layup as well to give Arizona the early 7-3 lead.
Chase Tapley scored his first points of the game and Parrom responded with a three-pointer before Mark Lyons hit a jumper. Skylar Spencer then scored and after a free-throw by Grant Jerrett, James Rahon hit a jumper to make it 13-9. Nick Johnson responded with a three, but a shot by Spencer and Dwayne Polee forced Arizona to take a timeout leading 16-13 with about ten minutes left in the half.
About a minute later, Hill made one of two free-throws before a three by Tapley cut Arizona’s lead to 17-16. Ashley responded with a basket off an offensive rebound and Lyons hit a three from deep to extend Arizona’s lead to six. O’Brien responded with a shot close to the basket, but Hill hit a baseline jumper to make it 24-18 with 5:23 left in the first half.
Tapley made two free-throws to pull SDSU within four, but Hill put it right back to six with a shot in the lane. Xavier Thames scored his first points of the game off two free-throws and O’Brien made a nice play in the lane to make it 26-24 with about four minutes left in the half. Shortly after, Hill made one of two free-throws and Johnson made both of his attempts to give the Wildcats a 29-24 lead.
Tapley responded with a three-point play to bring the Aztecs to 29-27, which was the score going into the half.
Jamaal Franklin scored his first points of the game to tie it at 29 and a three by Thames gave SDSU its first lead of the game with just under 18 minutes left in the half. Arizona then turned it over and Tapley responded with a three-point play to put the Aztecs up six. Hill ended the 8-0 run with a basket in the paint, but O’Brien got an offensive rebound to get it right back.
Lyons made two free-throws to cut the SDSU lead to four, but Thames hit a floater the next time down court. Thames then hit a reverse layup to put San Diego State up 41-33 and force Sean Miller to take a timeout.
Parrom was able to score on an offensive rebound out of the timeout and Johnson hit a layup to bring the Wildcats within four. However, Franklin got the line and got those two points back for the Aztecs. Spencer then scored on a dunk off a turnover to put SDSU up 45-37, but Ashley was able to score in the paint to help the Wildcats hang around.
Johnson hit two free-throws to bring the UA to within 45-41 and a Johnson three-point play gave the Wildcats momentum. Tapley was able to stop that momentum with a three-pointer, but Parrom hit a wide-open one of his own to make it 48-47 with about 11 minutes left in the half. After a layup by O’Brien, Hill hit a short jumper to make it 50-49 in favor of SDSU.
Hill made two free-throws out of a timeout to give Arizona a one-point lead, but three offensive rebounds eventually led to a SDSU basket and lead. Ashley was able to draw a foul and proceeded to make one of two free-throws to tie the game at 52 with 8:31 left in the half.
Stephens made a layup down the middle of the land and a jumper by Johnson tied it right up before Miller called a timeout. Out of the timeout, Franklin made a layup and shortly after Parrom made a layup to tie the game again. Winston Shepard followed with an easy score and Hill made one as well to continue the trend of trading baskets.
Arizona forced a turnover and Hill got the line by drawing the fourth foul on Franklin. He then made two free-throws to give Arizona the 60-58 lead, but Franklin got to the line and made both of his as well. Shepard got to the line seconds later and made one of two to give the Aztecs a one-point lead with 3:56 left.
A layup by Parrom put the Wildcats up one, but a three-pointer by Tapley put SDSU up two the next time down court. After matching turnovers, Parrom hit a three from the corner to put the Wildcats up 65-64 with about two minutes left. Thames got to the line with 1:22 left and made two free-throws to give SDSU the one-point lead.
Hill drew a foul with 59 seconds left, but only made one of two to tie the game at 65. Hill fouled Franklin 20 seconds later and he made one of two to give SDSU the one-point lead with 27 seconds left. Lyons was able to draw a foul with 13 seconds left and nailed both free-throws for the one-point lead.
With the time ticking off the clock, Tapley got a clean look in the paint, but Johnson was able to work through the screen and come through with the game-winning block.