Wildcats lose a heartbreaker, NCAA tournament run falls short

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Arizona guard Allonzo Trier (35) shoots over Xavier forward Tyrique Jones (0) and Trevon Bluiett (5) during the first half of an NCAA Tournament college basketball regional semifinal game Thursday, March 23, 2017, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) Arizona guard Allonzo Trier (35) shoots over Xavier forward Tyrique Jones (0) and Trevon Bluiett (5) during the first half of an NCAA Tournament college basketball regional semifinal game Thursday, March 23, 2017, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
SAN JOSE, CA (3TV/CBS 5) -

The cardiac 'Cats struck again and this time couldn't get it done so the heartbreak continues.

The Arizona Wildcats couldn't contain Xavier's offense down the stretch and once again fell short of the Final Four, losing 73-71.

Xavier (30-13) stayed with the second-seeded Wildcats behind Trevon Bluiett's 18 first-half points and tracked down the Wildcats after they tried to pull away in the second half. O'Mara scored on a power move inside, but missed a free throw to give Arizona (32-5) a final chance.

"Our goal and aspiration is always to challenge for a Final Four and we pulled short," said Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller.  "I cannot say enough good things about Xavier.  It's not because I used to be there.  I think their coach is awesome.  He had his way with us tonight."

Allonzo Trier missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds and Xavier was able to dribble out the clock, earning its first trip to the Elite Eight since 2008.

The Wildcats had an eight-point lead with 3 minutes left. But the Musketeers held Arizona scoreless over the final 2:52 to earn a spot in the West final against No. 1 seed Gonzaga on Saturday.

Xavier Coach Chris Mack, who was Miller's top assistant at Xavier from 2004-2009, employed a matchup zone to frustrate the Wildcats offense. Star Allonzo Trier scored just four points in the first half and Lauri Markkanen didn't take a shot the final 11 minutes.

"Our team never really established great confidence against the zone," said Miller. "The game never really felt good. That's on me... your best players need to be confident. You need to get them shots, and I didn't feel like we did that tonight. That's probably the worst feeling you can have as a coach."

The Xavier Musketeers shot over 50 percent from the field during the game.

The Wildcats had hoped that this would be their year. The Final Four is scheduled in the Valley and the Wildcats path to Glendale seemed manageable.  Arizona started the game up 7-0. Xavier junior Bluiett put the Musketeers on his back in the first half, hitting 7 of 8 shots and both of his free throws to score 18 points in the first half, finishing the game with 25 points. The two teams exchanged the lead more than a dozen times through the game. Arizona seemed to put the game away with a 10-0 run to take a 67-61 lead with under 3:00 to play, but Xavier held Arizona scoreless for the final 2:52. 

Arizona won the previous meeting to reach the Elite Eight, putting coach Sean Miller one up on Mack.

Arizona led 37-35 after turning 11 offensive rebounds into 13 second-chance points.

Miller has never made it to the Final Four.

U of A struggled against their previous opponent, St. Mary's College. The Wildcats finish the season 32-5.  

Xavier was one of the hottest teams in the country despite its injuries and has a chance to reach the Final Four for the first time. 

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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