Caleb Love scored 19 points and second-seeded Arizona reached the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons, beating No. 7 seed Dayton 78-68 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

The Wildcats (27-8), who also reached a regional semifinal in 2022 in coach Tommy Lloyd’s first season, will face either the West Region’s No. 6 seed, Clemson, or third-seeded Baylor in Los Angeles on Thursday night.

Keshad Johnson and Pelle Larsson each had 13 points and seven rebounds for Arizona. Larsson also had six assists, and Jaden Bradley scored 12 points off the bench. The Wildcats shot 53% from the field and made eight 3-pointers.

DaRon Holmes II had 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Flyers (25-8), who were denied their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2014. Koby Brea added 14 points and Kobe Elvis scored 13 for Dayton, which trailed by 17 points in the first half but stayed within striking distance nearly to the end.

Arizona staved off a potential rally when Bradley capped a 10-0 run with a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a 66-51 lead with 6:51 remaining. Two front-end misses by Holmes on one-and-one trips to the line thwarted Dayton’s comeback bid.

Dayton trimmed the deficit to single digits multiple times, drawing within 71-64 on a pair of free throws from Nate Santos with 55.1 seconds left. The Wildcats went 7 of 8 from the line in the final minute to put the game away.

Dayton initially struggled to adjust to Arizonas speedy offense and defensive length. The Wildcats allowed only two baskets over a 10 1/2-minute stretch in the first half. The Flyers missed 15 of 17 shots as they fell into a deep hole.

Figuring out how to stop Love was also a chore for Dayton.

Love scored five of Arizonas first 10 baskets and had 13 points in the first 12 minutes. The senior guard, who reached the national title game two years ago while playing for North Carolina, knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to spark a 10-2 run that put the Wildcats up 30-16 with 7:37 left in the first half.

Arizona extended its lead to 17 points before Dayton tightened its on-ball defense. The Flyers turned up the pressure on the Wildcat guards and forced four turnovers over a two-minute stretch, powering a 10-0 spurt that cut Arizonas lead down to 40-33 at halftime. Holmes and Brea bookended the run with 3-pointers.

Arizona shot 64% from the field in the first half, but also had 11 turnovers.


Arizona will be seeking its first Elite Eight appearance since 2015.

By JOHN COON (Associated Press)