Nick Johnson, who missed his first 10 shots, scored all of his 15 points in the final 2:45 of the game to help Arizona rally past San Diego State, 70-64, Thursday night in Anaheim, Calif.
The top-seeded Wildcats will face second-seeded Wisconsin in the West Regional final Saturday at the Honda Center.
Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 15 points each for Arizona (33-4).
Xavier Thames scored 25 points and Dwayne Polee added 13 points for the Aztecs (31-5).
Those two tried to bail out San Diego State in the final minute, each hitting 3-pointers before Thames’s 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.
The Aztecs got called for a 10-second violation, and the Wildcats regained the ball. Johnson got fouled and made both freebies for a 67-61 lead with 26 seconds to go. Thames then got fouled on a 3-point attempt, and he sank all three shots to leave San Diego State down, 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 free throw but made the second, keeping Arizona ahead, 68-64. Thames then missed at the other end, and Johnson concluded the scoring with two more free throws.
Arizona coach Sean Miller joined his brother, Archie, in the Elite Eight. Archie Miller coached Dayton to an 82-72 victory over Stanford in the South Regional semifinals earlier Thursday.
The Aztecs built an 8-point lead early in the second half, with Thames scoring 6 of their first 8 points, but couldn’t hold on.
Neither team led by more than 4 points until San Diego State closed the half on a 12-6 run to lead, 32-28. Polee ignited the Aztecs when he stepped in front of Johnson, swiped the ball, and tore downcourt for a huge dunk. He and Skylar Shepard had 4 points each in the spurt.
Wisconsin 69, Baylor 52 — Frank Kaminsky scored a game-high 19 points and blocked six shots, powering the second-seeded Badgers to a rout of the Bears in Anaheim, Calif.
Wisconsin (29-7) realizes it dominated Baylor because of a coach who always puts it in the right spots.
Bo Ryan has never been to college basketball’s final weekend, but the Badgers are thrilled to put him on the brink.
‘‘That would be a very special thing to do, but we also know that he’s not going to let us look too far ahead,’’ said Ben Brust, who sunk three 3-pointers and scored 14 points. ‘‘When that time comes, we'll handle it. I'd definitely like to do that for him.’’
The Badgers are now in the Elite Eight for the third time in school history and have a chance to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2000 by beating top-seeded Arizona.
Kaminsky and his disciplined teammates shredded the Baylor zone that played so well in the first two games. Wisconsin (29-7) also methodically shut down Baylor’s talented offense while moving into its second regional final in 13 years under Ryan, who has seen just about everything except the Final Four in his 700-win coaching career.
The Badgers advanced by countering everything the Bears do well. Wisconsin wrecked Baylor’s zone, negated its 3-point shooting acumen with perimeter defense, kept the tempo at the Badgers’ preferred speed, and even held a 39-33 rebounding edge on Baylor, one of the nation’s top rebounding teams.
Cory Jefferson scored 15 points for the sixth-seeded Bears (26-12) in their third Sweet 16 trip in five years.