ANAHEIM, Calif. — San Diego State did just about everything right against Arizona.
The Aztecs controlled the boards, especially on the offensive glass; shut down Wildcats star Nick Johnson for a long stretch; and got 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski in foul trouble.
They just didn’t win the game.
Led by Johnson, who exploded for 15 points in the final 2:45, the top-seeded Wildcats won 70-64 on Thursday night in the West Regional semifinals.
“Couldn’t quite get it done,” coach Steve Fisher said. “That is the hard part.”
The Aztecs’ defense forced Johnson to miss his first 10 shots, and the Pac-12 player of the year finished 2 of 12 from the field. But he made all 10 of his free throws down the stretch.
“He just made a lot of good shots,” said Dwayne Polee, who guarded Johnson and finished with 13 points.
Xavier Thames led the fourth-seeded Aztecs (31-5) with 25 points, making all six of his free throws. Josh Davis had 14 rebounds, helping his team to a 37-29 rebounding advantage, including an 18-10 edge on the offensive glass.
“Nobody’s happy,” forward Winston Shepard said. “We really had a good enough team to go deep in the tournament.”
Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 15 points each for the top-seeded Wildcats (33-4). They next play Wisconsin, a 69-52 winner over Baylor, in the West Regional final on Saturday.
Thames and Polee tried to bail out SDSU in the final minute, each hitting 3-pointers before Thames’ basket cut the deficit to 65-61 with 38 seconds left.
The drama wasn’t over yet in a game featuring tenacious defense and rabid intensity by both teams.
SDSU got called for a 10-second violation, and the Wildcats regained the ball. Johnson got fouled and made both free throws for a 67-61 lead with 26 seconds to go. Thames got fouled on a 3-point attempt, and he sank all three shots to leave SDSU trailing 67-64.
The Aztecs had Johnson trapped near their bench, but he passed out of the double team, and Gabe York got fouled at the other end. He missed the first and made the second, keeping Arizona ahead 68-64. Thames missed, and Johnson went to the line again where he ended the scoring with two free throws.
WISCONSIN 69, BAYLOR 52
Frank Kaminsky scored 19 points and blocked six shots, and Wisconsin romped.
Ben Brust hit three 3-pointers and scored 14 points for the second-seeded Badgers (29-7), who jumped to a 14-point lead in the first half and never let up on the overmatched Bears (26-12).
The 7-foot Kaminsky and his disciplined teammates shredded the Baylor zone defense that played so well in the first two games. Wisconsin also methodically shut down Baylor’s talented offense while moving into its second regional final in 13 years under Bo Ryan, who has never reached a Final Four in a 700-win coaching career.
Cory Jefferson scored 15 points for the sixth-seeded Bears, who did little with their third Sweet 16 trip in five years.
Isaiah Austin and Kenny Chery scored 12 points apiece for Baylor, which made two of its 15 3-point attempts while trailing for the final 39 minutes. The Bears needed a late rally just to match their lowest-scoring performance of the season in the final seconds.