LAS VEGAS -- T.J. McConnell laid out like a baserunner diving headfirst into a base. He missed the ball, but, after landing with a thud, jumped up and raced the other direction. Aaron Gordon, who did get the steal because of McConnells effort, flipped the ball ahead and Arizonas point guard ran under it, scoring an easy basket in transition. The play, and countless others like it in a spirit-crushing rout over Utah, let the rest of the Pac-12 field -- and the country -- know that one of the nations best defensive is in high gear for the post-season. Playing with a feverish intensity from the opening tip, Arizona raced through the record book and overwhelmed the stunned Utes in a 71-39 rout on Thursday to match the most lopsided game in Pac-12 tournament history. "We were locked in," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "Everything that we wanted to do defensively, we were able to do it." Nick Johnson scored 14 points, McConnell 13 and Gordon added 11 for Arizona, which shot 53 per cent. That was just a side note to what the Wildcats were doing defensively. After playing two close games against Utah during the regular season, top-seeded Arizona (29-3) opened the tournament with a have-to-see-it-to-believe-it defensive performance. Energized by a raucous crowd that made it feel like the McKale Center, the Wildcats were at their lane-jumping, shot-contesting best against the Utes (21-11) to move into Fridays semifinals against Colorado or California. Arizona jumped on Utah early and had stamped its name in the record books by then, setting marks for fewest points allowed, fewest field goals (12) and lowest shooting percentage (25). The Wildcats held the Utes to 13 points in the first half, another record, and matched UCLAs 32-point win over Oregon State in 2006 to move into Fridays semifinals against Colorado or California. Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright, Utahs leading scorers, combined for seven points on 1-of-4 shooting and Utah lost by 13 fewer points than its 10 previous losses combined. "When we get stops and get rebounds and get the push, our athleticism is really at play," Johnson said. "I think finishing with dunks and around the basket gets everybody going. Arizona had hoped to make a statement in the Pac-12 tournament to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Pac-12 regular-season champion Wildcats certainly did in their tournament opener, playing with an intensity Utah had no chance of matching after playing a close game against Washington the night before. The crowd at MGM Grand Garden Arena started chants of "U of A! U of A!" long before the opening tip and the Wildcats turned the game into a rout not long after the ball went up. Racing out for dunks and 3-pointers in transition set up by their climb-in-your-jersey defence, the Wildcats stormed past the Utes with an 18-2 run that put them up 22-6. Arizona kept its foot on the Utes behind its defence, contesting every shot, pass and dribble. The Wildcats held Utah to 5-of-19 shooting while forcing eight turnovers in the first half. Loveridge and Wright, who combine for over 31 points per game, took four shots and had no points between them. "They were really putting on a defensive clinic in the first half," Utah centre Dallin Bachynski said. Second half, more of the same. Utah missed its first 11 shots -- its first field goal came 9:15 in -- and at one point had five players on the court who had yet to score in the game. Yep, it was that bad. The only thing in doubt at that point was whether the Utes would get to 30 points. They got there with 4:17 left, but, boy, was it ugly. "They took pride in guarding us," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. 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The punch happened in the fourth quarter of Milwaukees 116-102 loss to the Kings on Wednesday when the two players became entangled while battling for rebounding position.Jason Spezza has heard the whispers that maybe being the captain of the Ottawa Senators wasnt the best thing for his career. That perhaps the added pressure of wearing the "C" made him a bigger target for criticism with the fans and media in this city and ultimately served as the catalyst for his departure from town. But on Friday afternoon – doing his first extensive interview since the trade to Dallas in July – the star centre said the captaincy did not play a role in his decision to ask for a trade. "I think its bogus. To me, I think if anything, having the C made me think even harder about wanting to stay, because I didnt want to seem like I was running away from being a captain," Spezza told TSN 1200 on Friday. "I think anybody thats been around the rink, anybody that knows me, anybody thats been on the team, knows that... I think I come by leadership honestly. I think Im a guy that Ive always taken things pretty hard when the team struggles." "Ive looked at myself as being one of and a leader on that team for a long time. So, the C, obviously with Alfie leaving and me taking over the C and now me moving on, its not something that can be ignored. But, the reason for me wanting out isnt because I got named captain and we had a bad season. Its just because I felt like it was time." Spezza wont be back in Ottawa again until the Dallas Stars pay a visit to Canadian Tire Centre on January 29th. His Ottawa house is up for sale and the family packed up their belongings a few weeks ago – ready for a fresh start in Dallas. He was only in Ottawa for a few days after the trade was engineered on July 1st and says that it was strange for him to be in the nations capital and not be a member of the Senators. "It was eerie going back there a little bit this summer, but I knew what I was getting into," Spezza explained. "I knew that I had asked to be moved, and its not something that I woke up one day and thought that I needed a change of scenery. Its something that I thought out, and I feel like as tough as it is to move on - it probably wouldve been the easier thing, just to re-sign and stay there, but Im ready for a challenge, and I expect a lot from myself and I think Ive got a lot of great years left." After the Senators missed the playoffs in the 2013-14 season, there were rumblings that Spezza was on the trade market. General manager Bryan Murray confirmed that Spezza and his agent Rick Curran had requested a trade in May, which created a ton of media interest leading up to the NHL Draft weekend at the end up of June. Spezza declined an opportunity to head to Nashville in a trade and says he wanted to end up in Dallas. He wishes the entire episode was kept quiet, but he harbors no ill feelings towards Murray or the Senators organization for the fact the trade request became public. "I think obviously the goal of mine was to kind of get traded withouut the hoopla around it and all the conversation that went around it.dddddddddddd. The reality of it is, that was never going to happen," Spezza said. "So I just tried to stay quiet, and I talked to Bryan a few times throughout the process. I have a lot of respect for Bryan, I think he has a lot of respect for me, and unfortunately, things get kind of dragged out through the papers and the media and sometimes things get skewed, but thats the nature of the game and it was my decision to ask him to move me and I had to live with the consequences. But, Im happy with the end result." Spezza had an injury-plagued 2013-14 campaign, recovering from major back surgery in February of 2013 and then dealing with hip and groin issues in the fall. He ended up leading all forwards on the team with 66 points in 75 games – but the writing appeared to be on the wall that Spezzas time in Ottawa was done as the regular season came to a close. The 31-year-old says he wasnt counting down the final games of the regular season as the end of his tenure in Ottawa. "I dont think I ever looked at those last games as my last game as a Senator. I did have a year left on my contract and I wouldve been able to play that year out and go from there, but I think that the move was beneficial to both sides," Spezza added. "I just felt that I think it was time for me to move on. I think that the organization was going through a different period, probably a little bit more of a rebuild, and going with a different approach." "So for me, I felt that at the place of my career where Im at, that I wanted to move on somewhere else and get a fresh start for myself, and also it allowed the team to grow and be a younger team. So, but I think that I knew it was time to move on, and I think they knew the same thing." Spezza ended up serving as team captain for only one season, replacing longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson who served in that role for 13 seasons. When asked who would be a logical candidate to assume the captaincy with the Senators next season, Spezza was hesitant to pick a new leader. "I have to think, I have to be careful how much I weigh into the captaincy of my former team. I have a lot of good friends there. Chris Phillips is definitely the most mature guy - one of the most mature people Ive been around I think in my career, and just somebody you can always lean on," Spezza explained. "So, if Erik becomes captain, if Philly becomes captain, if someone else becomes captain, theyll have each other to lean on. And I think that a guy like Erik Karlsson - the confidence he gives and the confidence he portrays is obviously something that shows on the ice and can be a positive for the team." "But, I dont think its my position to weigh in on whos going to be captain. But theres a solid group of guys there. They get along well, and they should be able to help each other out." Wholesale Jerseys ' ' '