LAS VEGAS — Nick Johnson scored 16 points, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 12 and Arizona ran away from tired Colorado in a dominating second half to rout the Buffaloes 63-43 in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals Friday night
Unlike its last win over Colorado, Arizona (30-3) started slow, allowing the Buffaloes to keep it close at halftime.
Playing its third game in as many days, Colorado had no chance at stopping the Wildcats once they got rolling, succumbing to Arizona's defensive pressure and string of highlight-reel plays.
Arizona shot 60 percent in the second half and held Colorado (23-11) to 5-of-22 shooting in the final 20 minutes to earn a spot Saturday's championship game against UCLA or Stanford.
T.J. McConnell added 12 points, five assists and four rebounds for the Wildcats in front of a pro-Arizona crowd at MGM Grand Garden Arena that made it feel like McKale Center West.
Askia Booker had 20 points to lead Colorado, which has a two-day wait to see if the NCAA tournament selection committee deems them worthy of the bracket.
Arizona put on a show in its tournament opener, flexing its defensive muscles for everyone to see with an overwhelming quarterfinal victory over Utah.
The Wildcats held the Utes to 13 first-half points, 39 overall, 12 field goals and 25 percent shooting — all tournament records. The 32-point margin also matched the largest in tournament history.
Arizona pulled a similar smothering act on Colorado in the team's last meeting.
After a 12-point loss in Tucson, Colorado's Xavier Johnson proclaimed Arizona wasn't that good and that the Buffaloes would beat the Wildcats by 20, even with leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie out for the season.
The Wildcats turned the slight into a fury, holding Colorado without a field goal for the opening 10 minutes and shooting 84 percent in the second half an 88-61 win — their first in Boulder since 1973.
The Buffaloes got off to a better start this time, scoring 8½ minutes sooner.
Colorado still had trouble with Arizona's amoebic defense, though, going 10 of 29 from the floor in the first half.
But the Buffaloes had something up their sleeve: A little defense of their own.
Contesting shots and digging down on the post for steals, Colorado made life much more difficult than it had back in Boulder, allowing them to stay in the game. The Buffaloes held Arizona to 11-of-29 shooting and forced eight turnovers — five by center Kaleb Tarczewski — that led to 11 points.
Colorado held Arizona scoreless for over 4 minutes during a 10-2 run that helped the Buffaloes trim Arizona's nine-point lead to 27-24 at halftime.
The second half looked more like the game in Boulder.
Arizona picked up the defensive intensity even more and started pouring out the highlights to extend the lead.
Johnson had one, flying in for a reverse alley-oop dunk and Hollis-Jefferson matched him with a tomahawk dunk over Josh Scott. Gordon provided one on the defensive end not long after that, soaring up for a clean swat on Johnson's one-handed dunk attempt that sent Arizona's fans bursting out of their seats.
In just a couple of minutes, the Wildcats were up 51-32 thanks to a 13-0 run, well on their way to the Pac-12 title game.