Anaheim, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - T.J. McConnell stripped the ball away from Winston Shepard near halfcourt, dove to retrieve it and alertly found Gabe York with a bounce pass from his back. York then left a pass for Nick Johnson, whose layup finally put him in the scoring column.
Johnson's second field goal less than a minute later was the dagger.
Johnson scored 15 of Arizona's final 16 points and the Wildcats advanced to the West Regional Final following a 70-64 triumph over San Diego State on Thursday night.
The Pac-12 Player of the Year Johnson began 0-of-10 from the floor before his layup gave Arizona 56-51 lead with 2:44 left. After J.J. O'Brien made two foul shots, Johnson knocked down a right wing triple to extend the margin to 59-53 with 1:52 on the clock.
Johnson hit all 10 of his foul shots down the stretch to send top-seeded Arizona (33-4) to its first Elite Eight since 2011.
"When I hit one shot it just started to feel a little bit better," Johnson said. "I just kept on hitting shots."
The Wildcats will face second-seeded Wisconsin in the West Regional Final on Saturday. The Badgers routed sixth-seeded Baylor, 69-52, earlier on Thursday.
Aaron Gordon had 15 points and seven rebounds, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 15 points and five boards for the Wildcats, who are in their third Sweet 16 in four years.
Arizona also defeated the Aztecs, 69-60, earlier this season on Nov. 14.
Xavier Thames netted 25 points to lead fourth-seeded San Diego State (31-5), which has never reached the Elite Eight. Dwayne Polee provided 13 points and Josh Davis pulled down 14 boards in defeat.
"One of these days we're going to get to a Final Four," SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said.
Back-to-back buckets by Shepard and Thames staked the Aztecs to a 40-32 advantage early in the second half before Arizona ripped off six straight. Hollis-Jefferson put in the first two baskets before Gordon reached back and threw down a ferocious one-handed dunk off an alley-oop pass by Gabe York to pull the Wildcats within 40-38 with 14:27 to go.
Arizona hadn't led since the 7:50 mark of the opening half until McConnell drove in for a layup to give it a 50-49 edge with 7:21 on the clock.
Earlier, neither team led by more than four until a 9-0 SDSU push. A Shepard jumper capped the swing and helped the Aztecs to a 29-22 cushion with 4:32 left in the first half.
The Aztecs took a 32-28 advantage into the break.