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WSU had a chance to tie late. The Cougars ran 34 seconds off the clock, but could only get a forced three-point shot. The Wildcats corralled the rebound. Salim Stoudamire iced things with a pair of free throws to put the game out of reach.
Cougar coach Dick Bennett missed the game due to illness, but his son Tony did an admirable job of running the show and making sure his team kept to the game plan. Washington State did a fantastic job slowing things down and working for the good shot. The Wildcats played effective defense, but maintaining defensive intensity for the full 35 seconds is never easy.
Marcus Moore was the lone Cougar to get hot. He had 29 points, but did not do much damage late in the game when the Cougars needed him most. He scored 18 in the first half and had 26 with 10 minutes to play, but scored just three down the stretch.
"That was Salim Stoudamire," Olson told KNST radio of Moore's late struggles. "He did a good job taking away the stuff they went to early on. Most of his 11 (second half points) came in the first seven or eight minutes."
The Cougars did a very nice on defense, but the Wildcats helped as well. Arizona missed numerous lay-ins and bank shots. The Cats shot just 39.6 percent, their fourth lowest total of the season.
Channing Frye was the bright spot for the Cats. The junior center had 17 points, 11 in the second half. He scored seven in a row during a critical second half stretch where no other Wildcat players could muster any offense.
The Wildcats opened the game with two quick buckets, then the offense dried up. The Cats scored just two more points over the next six minutes and found themselves down 17-6.
Early on it was the play of Moore and Thomas Kelati. The two teamed to score the first 19 WSU points. Moore was on fire from the outside all day long. He took advantage of his size advantage and exploited the holes in the Cats' 1-3-1 defense.
Arizona battled back, but never got in a rhythm offensively. They managed to rattle off a 17-3 run, but led by just three when Stoudamire connected on a three-pointer.
Stoudamire finished with 11 points, including the two clutch free throws, but was just 3-of-10 from the field and had the ball stolen away twice, which led to easy transition buckets for the Cougars.
Things were very tight until the end. Arizona's biggest lead was just seven and that came at the end of a 9-2 run, when Frye dropped in seven straight Wildcat points.
"We had to take advantage of Channing's play in the middle," Olson noted.
As they did all game, the Cougars would not stay down. They came back to tie the game at 53. Arizona appeared to take control with two consecutive steals and fastbreak buckets, but baskets by Isaiah Simmons and Kelati tied the game at 57 moments later.
Frye gave the Wildcats their final lead with just 57 seconds to play with a sweet jump hook that barely ruffled the net as it passed through the basket.
Arizona outrebounded the Cougars and dominated them at the foul line. The UA made 16-of-19 from the foul line, while the Cougars were just 1-of-3 from the charity stripe.