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Pac-12 champ Arizona opens tournament play vs. Stanford

Stanford will try to build off the momentum it gained in a stunning comeback win over Arizona State when it takes on No. 2 Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon in Las Vegas.

The ninth-seeded Cardinal (16-15) trailed by 14 points with just over three minutes left but capped a 16-1 run on James Keefe's buzzer-beating jumper for a 71-70 win. The victory snapped a five-game skid for Stanford that included an 81-69 loss at Arizona on March 3.

"It wasn't trending the right way (for us)," Stanford coach Jerod Haase said. "But at the end of the day it is a tournament setting, and in tournament settings you build momentum once you get into the tournament."

Top-seeded Arizona (28-3) will be playing its first Pac-12 tourney game in two years after self-imposing a postseason ban in 2021. The Wildcats set a record for conference victories with 18, tied the school mark for regular-season wins, then nearly swept the Pac-12 individual awards with Bennedict Mathurin winning Player of the Year, Christian Koloko winning Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player, Pelle Larsson winning Sixth Man of the Year and Tommy Lloyd winning Coach of the Year in his first season.

But for all that regular-season success, Arizona is lacking postseason experience. Only four players on the roster have played in a conference tournament; Koloko is the only one to do so with the Wildcats.

"We're gonna go in and we're going to attack it and see how it plays out, and then at the end of the day, if it's successful or unsuccessful, we're gonna learn from it, and hopefully be better than the next week," Lloyd said.

Arizona won both regular-season games against Stanford by double digits, but the 81-69 home victory on March 3 saw the Cardinal lead at halftime and outrebound the Wildcats. However, Arizona turned 17 Stanford turnovers into 23 points. The Cardinal averaged more than 15 turnovers per game during the regular season.

"We felt like last time we went to their place, we threw it away in the last couple minutes because we were with them the entire time, we were battling with them the entire time and made them uncomfortable," said Stanford's Spencer Jones, who had a career-high 26 points in the first-round win over ASU.

The Wildcats led the conference in most offensive categories, including scoring (82.1 points per game) and field goal percentage (49.5 percent). They lead Division I in assists per game (20.1) and are in the top 10 nationally in blocks per game (5.7).

Mathurin, who is averaging 17.3 points per game, has had some of his best games this season away from home. Five of his top six scoring performances have come on the road or at neutral sites, including a 25-point game against Wichita State in T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in November.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 10, 2022

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