NEW YORK (AP) — Nick Johnson scored 20 points and freshman Aaron Gordon had 10 points and 13 rebounds and No. 4 Arizona rallied from a terrible first half to beat Drexel 66-62 on Wednesday night in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
The Wildcats used a 25-4 run spanning halftime to wipe out an 18-point first-half deficit and take their first lead of the game, 33-31 on a basket by Brandon Ashley with 16:11 to play.
That was the first of 11 lead changes in a span of 8 1-2 minutes as the Dragons stayed around a lot longer than most thought they would.
The Wildcats (6-0) will face the winner of the No. 6 Duke-Alabama semifinal on Friday night for the championship at Madison Square Garden.
Kaleb Traczewski had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Arizona, which shot 46.7 percent in the second half (14 of 30) after shooting 26.1 percent (6 of 23) in the first half.
Chris Fouch led Drexel with 29 points on 11-of-27 shooting and Frantz Massenat added 17.
Drexel (3-2) had the start double-digit underdogs can only dream of. The Dragons scored the first nine points of the game and combined their hot start from the field with Arizona’s miss after miss to take a 27-8 lead with 7 minutes to go in the first half.
Drexel made 11 of its first 21 shots from the field in taking the 19-point lead while the Wildcats started 3 of 17 and they uncharacteristically didn’t take care of the ball.
They finished the half with 10 turnovers, their average for a game this season. They finished with 14.
Even though Drexel cooled off — the Dragons missed 10 straight shots after the hot start — the closest Arizona could get was 27-19 on an 11-0 run in which Johnson had six points.
The Dragons led 29-20 at halftime, the first time this season Arizona was behind after 20 minutes.
Arizona, which came in averaging 84 points a game, took the lead for good at 46-45 on a dunk by Tarczewski with 7:21 to play. The Wildcats finally opened some space by taking a 54-47 lead as Drexel continued to struggle with its shooting. The Dragons finished at 36.6 percent (26 of 71).
Drexel came into the game with a 2-9 record against ranked teams under coach Bruiser Flint and the highest ranked of the wins was No. 20 Louisville on Dec. 14, 2010.
Arizona came in with a 20-2 record in the NIT Season Tip-Off and its three championships were tied for second behind only Duke’s four titles.
Drexel made one other appearance in the tournament and that was in 2005 when the Dragon also reached the semifinals where they lost to then-No. 1 Duke 78-68.
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