Cats hold off the Aztecs

Arizona started slow but used one of their patented second half runs to put away San Diego State and coast to a 83-71 win. Maybe they were looking forward to the Holidays, but neither team looked sharp early on and it wasn't until the Cats rattled off a 15-0 run that a win looked certain.<BR> <A href="http://arizona.theinsiders.com/2/216116.html">A CLOSER LOOK</A>

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The Aztecs were powerless to stop the run. Steve Fisher and his staff did everything they could to slow down the Wildcats but nothing worked. They called a pair of time-outs and made multiple line-up changes to no avail.

Channing Frye got the run started. The Wildcat big man had been effective all game long and started the run with a tip-in and a pair of free throws. He'd finish the game one rebound shy of a double-double with 15 pts and nine rebounds.

Two Wildcats did achieve double-doubles. Hassan Adams and Andre Iguodala were just too athletic and too aggressive for the Aztecs and proved to be the real difference in the game.

Adams hit the defensive glass better than he has all season and finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds. He was 3-5 from behind the arc, but the team shot just 29.2% from three-point range. Fellow forward Iguodala had 10 points and a game high 12 rebounds.

"Hassan got to the defensive boards and responded with a double-double," Lute Olson noted. "Andre got to the offensive boards and had a double-double." Salim Stoudamire was key in the 15-0 run, but was limited due to a pulled hamstring. Stoudamire had three buckets to help the Cats break the game open, but scored only one other time.

In Stoudemire's place, Chris Rodgers stepped up. The sophomore had 17 points, making 3-6 from behind the arc.

"I thought Chris Rodgers played really well for us," Olson said. "He did a nice job for us defensively and for the most part took care of the ball."

"I just try to come out each game and give a good effort," Rodgers said. "I just wanted to hit shots. I got some open looks and knocked them down."

Frye paced the Cats in the early going. The Wildcat big man scored eight of the team's first 11 points. Stoudamire started the Wildcats' scoring with a three-pointer, then Frye scored the next eight. Just as important for the team, Frye was able to draw two early fouls on Aerick Sanders, the Aztec's best post player.

Even with Frye scoring at ease, the Aztecs were keeping pace with Sanders and Heath. Each player scored a pair of buckets to match Frye's output. Frye's final basket of the scoring spurt gave the Wildcats a slim 11-8 run.

Sanders was the story for the Aztecs. The big man scored a game-high 24 points and added nine rebounds. He was not whistled again after picking up the two early fouls.

"I told Channing three days ago that he wasn't going to play a better center all year long," Olson said.

Arizona added to the lead and was up 18-10 before the Aztecs started climbing back into the game. Despite the early fouls, Sanders came back into the game and was the spark. Sanders scored six straight points and The Aztecs trailed just 21-19 following a 9-3 run.

Both teams played sloppy down the stretch, with the Aztecs hanging around with superior play on the offensive boards. Back-to-back baskets by Marcus Slaughter and Sanders had the Aztecs within three, but Arizona scored nine in a row, including a buzzer beater by Chris Rodgers, to finish the half with a 10-point lead, 41-31.

Arizona opened the second half with a three-pointer, but after that it was all SDSU for the next 5:00. The Aztecs outscored the Cats 10-4 and were within seven, 48-41. Brandon Heath was hot in the early part of the half. The freshman guard scored SDSU's first two buckets of the half. He finished with 15, three below his season average.

That would be as close as The Aztecs would get. The Cats went on the 15-0 run and that was that. Frye got them started with a tip-in and a pair of free throws. Stoudamire added three mid-range buckets and Iguodala and Adams each contributed a bucket.

The smoke cleared and the Wildcats led 63-41.

The Aztecs made a couple of mini-runs, but never got it closer than 10. Wesley Stokes hit two of his three three-pointers in the final 1:30, but little used Fil Torres knocked down all four of his free throw attempts to seal the win. For Torres the four points was a career high.

"If they kept fouling him he could have reached double figures," Olson joked.

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