Cats dispatch Catamounts

SALT LAKE CITY—The road to the tournament was a long and arduous one, but for Vermont the stay was brief. Arizona looked disinterested at times but dismantled the Catamounts 80-51 to advance to the second round and a match-up with the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

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The Wildcats proved to be too talented for the Catamounts. Sloppy, uninspired play didn't hurt the Wildcats at all as they stayed focused on the defensive end. The Wildcats made the Catamounts work for every bucket, and forced bad shots. The more athletic Wildcats hounded the slower Vermont players, making switches and getting by screens and picks.

The Cats held Vermont to just 31.3 percent shooting and caused 17 turnovers. Vermont was never able to get on track as evidenced by just two players in double figures.

One Wildcat who did not struggle was Salim Stoudamire. Stoudamire was on fire scoring both inside and out. Stoudamire, who sat much of the second half, finished with 18 points, knocking down 4-of-8 three pointers. He scored all but two of his points in the first half and after struggling with tendonitis last week he played just seven minutes after halftime.

The Cats looked for Channing Frye early. Frye scored the first four Wildcat points, but could not build on the fast start with a dominant performance. He did score 12 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Vermont did a very good job of putting a body on him and not allowing him position for the hook shot. He was also a terror on defense, blocking four shots and altering countless others.

Senior forwards Luke Walton and Rick Anderson were also on top of their games. The pair combined for 25 points and missed a total of four shots. Anderson pulled down nine rebounds and blocked two shots, while Walton had six assists and six rebounds.

Jason Gardner's shooting woes carried over from the UCLA game. Gardner shot just 2-for-9 and did not hit a jump shot until 6:40 was left in the game when he buried a two point field goal. He hasn't hit a three since late in the Oregon game. As much as Gardner struggled shooting, he was stellar everywhere else. The senior guard dished six assists and grabbed seven boards.

Vermont's Taylor Coppenrath was as good as advertised. The 6-9 sophomore scored 18 points and was the lone Catamount player who looked like he could hold his own with Arizona. He was able to find his shot and create a handful of good looks.

Arizona was just too talented for the Catamounts and was able to overcome any mistakes. At times the Wildcats appeared to be just going through the motions, but they still built on the lead. Even when their shooting was off, other facets of their game were in high gear. The Cats outrebounded Vermont by 13 and never let them look comfortable.

The Catamounts scored first and held a 4-2 lead in the opening minutes. Coppenrath scored seven early points to keep Vermont close despite eight straight by the Cats. Down 15-7, Vermont scored six in a row to get within two. They had three chances to tie the game but came away empty and never challenged again.

Arizona responded. Walton nailed a fade-away and then assisted an Anderson lay-in. After that Stoudamire took over. The sophomore guard scored seven of the Cats' next 11 and at the final television timeout they led 30-18.

Vermont had a brief burst to start the half, but any hopes of a dramatic comeback were quickly dashed. A 16-2 run by the Wildcats effectively ended any remote hope of a Catamount win.

The Cats went to the bench before the eight-minute mark. Unfortunately the "bench" consisted of Isaiah Fox and Chris Rodgers, two players more talented than almost anyone on the Catamount roster. Rodgers and Fox logged more time than usual and the Cats did not suffer. Jason Ranne came in with a few minutes left, scoring on a lay-in to one of the loudest ovations of the day. Fil Torres continued in his role of victory cigar and entered the game in the final minute.

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