Lauri Markkanen had 16 points and nine rebounds, and No. 8 Arizona held off Santa Clara 69-61 on Thursday night to reach the championship game of the Continental Las Vegas Invitational.
Kobi Simmons added 14 points for the Wildcats (5-0), who will play Butler for the title on Friday.
Arizona's defense smothered the Broncos in the second half, limiting them to 36 percent shooting (9 of 25) over the final 20 minutes. And yet, Santa Clara sliced its deficit to 59-58 when Jared Brownridge drained a long 3-pointer with 4:10 left — the team's fourth straight 3 during a 12-4 run.
But then Keanu Pinder converted both ends of a 1-and-1, Santa Clara turned the ball over and Parker Jackson-Cartwright hit a 3 to push Arizona's lead back to 64-58. The Wildcats closed the game on a 10-3 spurt, and the Broncos (3-3) went scoreless over the final 3 minutes.
Brownridge had 25 points for the Broncos, coached by former Arizona State coach Herb Sendek. Henrik Jadersten and Nate Kratch each scored 10.
Arizona led 37-34 at halftime and scored 14 of the first 23 points in the second half behind Simmons. Every time the Broncos tried to answer, the Wildcats produced timely defensive stops and offensive production to maintain control of the tempo.
After shooting 43.3 percent in the first half, the Broncos ended up at 40 percent for the game. Meanwhile, the Wildcats shot 48 percent overall while outrebounding Santa Clara 37-26.
Arizona: After playing Butler, the Wildcats get some much-needed time off. They'll have five days before their next game after playing five games in 11 days and their first six over 14 days in three cities.
Santa Clara: Though the Broncos fell short, they showed they can hang with a nationally ranked power, which should help them when West Coast Conference play begins and they face the likes of Gonzaga and Saint Mary's.
Butler will present the biggest test for Arizona since the Wildcats beat then-No. 12 Michigan State on Nov. 11 in Hawaii.
Santa Clara faces Vanderbilt on Friday in Las Vegas, hoping to avoid dipping below .500.
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