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The McKale faithful welcomed back Salim Stoudamire from his one-game suspension and the junior guard responded. Stoudamire scored 21 points, 16 in the second half. Maybe more importantly, he held Marcus Moore to just five points on 2-of-11 shooting.
"I went in to talk to Coach ‘O' and he wanted me to get out there and hold him to under ten ," Stoudamire said. "I did that."
Moore never got in rhythm, but the same could not be said for Stoudamire. Stoudamire was especially hot in the second half. Six of his eight field goals, including a pair of threes came after halftime. Coincidentally enough, Moore played only nine minutes in the second half, allowing Stoudamire to focus a little less on defense.
"I thought he did a great job," said Hassan Adams, who pumped in 11. "He played within himself."
The Wildcats played great for most of the game. They led by as many as 27 before letting the Cougars claw back and make things respectable.
Channing Frye was the story in the first half. He led the Wildcats with 14 points during the opening 20 minutes. He took 13 shots in the first half, to just four in the second, although he was an efficient 3-4 in the second half. He finished the game with 20 points.
Andre Iguodala came out and played hard, especially on the glass. The 6-6 wing pulled down a career high 16 rebounds to go along with 12 points and a trio of assists. His boards were the main reason Arizona out rebounded the Cougars 42-28.
The Wildcats were effective on the defensive end, especially in the first half, when the Cougars shot a paltry 30%. Arizona forced 17 turnovers, primarily by getting into the passing lanes and picking off or altering passes.
"We played in a better condition defensively today," Iguodala said. "We played a great first half."
Other than Thomas Kelati, no other Cougar had more than two field goals. With the rest of his team struggling, Kelati came to play. Kelati made five three-pointers and scored a game-high 27 points. He missed just two of his 13 field goal attempts. He also added six assists for the Cougars. "We couldn't contain Kelati," Lute Olson said. "He's now 15-21 from three-point range."
The early stages saw aggressive play by Iguodala and Frye. The duo combined to score 13 of the Wildcats' first 17 points. Iguodala attacked the basket, both on the drive and posting up. Frye did a nice job exploiting smaller, slower Cougar post players. He hit two jump hooks and his 18-footer gave the Wildcats a 17-7 lead.
"I needed to attack the rim," Iguodala noted.
WSU scored five in a row, but from there it was the Wildcats who exerted their dominance. Arizona jumped out to a 11-2 run. Iguodala's shake and bake cradle dunk allowed the Wildcats to double up the Cougars, 28-14. Iguodala had the ball on the wing, used a cross-over to fake out his defender and then sped unimpeded to the hole where he cradled the ball like a football before slamming it home.
It was the Cougars who came out strong to begin the second half. Arizona played sloppy and WSU took advantage. Early on the Cats could not hang onto the ball and the turnovers allowed WSU to outscore the Cats 9-5 before the first television timeout. A Kelati three had the Cougars down just 41-30, after trailing by as many as 18 in the late stages of the first half.
Arizona's poor play did not last long. The Cats came out aggressive on the defensive end and it led to easy buckets on the offensive end.
Stoudamire led the way with a pair out of character slam dunks and a sweet lay-in. First he stole the ball at mid court and raced for an uncontested one-handed slam. Just a few possessions later he got the ball on the wing in transition and appeared to go for a second slam, but changed his mind in mid-air and ended up scoring on a pretty finger roll. He ended a quick 8-2 burst with a head fake in the corner, then lost his defender and raced along the baseline for another power slam.
A Chris Rodgers jumper gave the Cats their first lead over 20 points at 55-34. They'd go up by as many as 27, but by the 2:58 mark the Cougars had trimmed the lead to just 11, 69-58.