San Diego • If Arizona makes a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, coach Sean Miller says the Wildcats might have to thank Weber State.
Arizona, the top-seed in the West Region, defeated No. 16 Weber on Friday at Viejas Arena, 68-59.
After the Wildcats advanced to the Round of 32, Miller said, "Weber State was playing great basketball today. No question, it was a good game for us to play. It reminded us how hard it is to play in this tournament."
On paper, Arizona will have more difficult tasks than defeating the regular-season and tournament championship from the Big Sky Conference.
But Miller isn’t so sure: "Someone said, moving forward, it’s only going to get tougher. I don’t believe that. Weber State is … well-coached. A disciplined team. Just great."
NBA prospects Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon were the key players in Arizona’s win.
Johnson finished with 18 points, including a clutch three after a pass from Gordon that gave the Wildcats a 63-51 lead with 4:10 remaining.
"Aaron got it in the post and found me on the wing," Johnson said. "I just knocked it down. … In the NCAA Tournament, you’ve got to knock down shots. That’s what happened."
Arizona overcame an early 7-0 deficit. The Wildcats failed to convert seven straight possessions before Gabe York finally scored on a steal and layup with 15:08 remaining in the first half.
"I thought we had some anxiety — dropped balls, missed shots," Miller said. " … [But] once we got through that stretch we played some really good basketball."
Arizona controlled most of the game because of its defense.
Weber State made six of its 24 field-goal attempts in the first half and ended up shooting 30.2 percent for the game. Arizona blocked 12 shots, including five by 7-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski and five by Gordon.
"They’re our anchors down low," Johnson said. " … Kaleb and Aaron have done a great job of altering shots and blocking shots all year and you saw that [again] today."
Weber State stayed in the game from the foul line. The Wildcats made 20 of their 23 free throws. Berry was 10-for-10, including eight straight in the second half.
According to Miller, Arizona committed five fouls when the shot clock had run inside five seconds.
"Just a complete lack of discipline — a lack of concentration," he said. "You’re going to foul in the game of basketball but the silly reach-ins, especially when the shot clock is that low, makes it difficult."
Miller was more pleased about the blocked shots.
"Our length around the basket has been good for us all year and it helped us today," he said.
Weber State coach Randy Rahe agreed.
"That team can really, really guard," he said. "That’s the best defensive team I’ve seen since I’ve been at Weber State. They don’t make mistakes … and that’s going to propel them into a long run in the tournament."
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.