SAN DIEGO (AP) - Arms waving and legs churning, Arizona is racing back into the Sweet 16.
The rest of the bracket should take notice of this one. If they play like this, the Wildcats are going to be awfully tough to beat.
Overwhelming Gonzaga with its contest-everything defense, Arizona looked very much like the top seed in the West, blowing out the Bulldogs 84-61 on Sunday to reach the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years.
“That Arizona team we saw tonight was as good a team as we have faced, that I can remember,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “It was just too much for us tonight.”
Coming off a shaky NCAA tournament opener, Arizona (32-4) ended a wild first weekend of upsets and buzzer beaters with a display of domination.
This was not the epic double-overtime game these teams played in the 2003 NCAA tournament. This was an eye-popping display of what one of the nation’s best teams can do when it gets rolling.
The Wildcats overran Gonzaga (29-7) with their size, athleticism and quick hands to blow the eighth-seeded Bulldogs out of the bracket.
Turning one of college basketball’s most efficient teams on its head, Arizona scored 31 points of Gonzaga’s 21 turnovers - 15 on steals - and never gave the Zags a chance after racing out to a 21-point lead in the first half.
Next up for Arizona is fourth-seeded San Diego State - a team it beat in this same arena early in the season - in the Sweet 16 just up the coast in Anaheim.
“Tonight was one of our season’s best performances,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “Obviously, you want to play well in the NCAA tournament and that’s exactly what our team did tonight.”
Gonzaga has relied on its ability to control the game and take care of the ball during a run of 16 straight NCAA tournament appearances.
Arizona’s pressure ran the Zags ragged, leaving them trailing the Wildcats as they raced off to one layup after another.
Przemek Karnowski scored 14 points and Kevin Pangos added 12 for Gonzaga, which hasn’t reached the Sweet 16 since 2009.
“We didn’t do ourselves any favors,” said Pangos, who kept playing after turning his ankle early in the game. “We let them feel pretty good about themselves. But they are a good team and they did speed it up a little bit.”