Cats sweep in NYC

Last second heroics and an experimental rule aided Arizona in their 75-71 win over Florida in the Championship game of the Ikon Coaches Vs. Cancer tournament in New York City. Rick Anderson's leaner with the shot clock winding down gave the Wildcats a lead they would not relinquish.

Like the night before Gardner was again the high scorer, but it was Rick Anderson who had the clutch baskets. Twice in the game's waning minutes Anderson hit critical shots as the shot clock was winding down.

With less than two minutes to play Anderson hit an 18-foot jumper just as the shot clock expired. The shot gave the Wildcats a 71-69 lead.

His second shot won the game. After the Gators tied the score at 71, the Wildcats slowed the game and tried to work time off the clock. Gardner got trapped at the top of the key and was forced to call time-out with only three-seconds on the shot clock. Anderson caught the ball on the inbounds pass, drove the lane, and hit a runner just as the shot clock expired to give Arizona a 73-71 lead.

"I came out of the huddle and I thought I could make the basket to win us this game," Anderson said.

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(AP Photo/Jeff Zelevansky)

Following Anderson's clutch bucket, the Wildcats relied on good defense as well as benefiting from an experimental rule in place during the pre-season. Walton tied up Florida's Brett Nelson with just over :13 to play. Instead of awarding the ball on the alternating possession rule, the teams had a jump ball at midcourt. The jump ball wasn't controlled by either team and the resulting scrum forced another jump ball.

The Gators won the jump, but Matt Bonner threw the ball away.

Those jump balls are like hockey faceoffs but we got the one we had to," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "Matt Bonner was anxious with that pass and I feel bad for him for the pass he made. We had 10 seconds left. We could have got something."

The Gators had an opportunity, but didn't get anything. Florida fouled the normally steady Gardner, but the Arizona junior missed both free throws. Gardner played heads up and snuck between two Florida rebounders to gather in the ball and ice the game.

"I was so nervous. My legs were shaking. My heart was shaking," he said. "I missed the first one. I missed the second and had a chance to grab it."

Jason Gardner led the Cats with 23 points, on 8-of-12 shooting. Freshman Will Bynum added 16 of his own, knocking down three three-pointers.

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(AP Photo/Jeff Zelevansky)

"Anytime we play we've got to give Jason (Gardner) some credit," Lute Olson said. "He's just a tremendous competitor."

The Gators led early until a Will Bynum three gave the Cats their first lead 9-7.

The Cats held the early lead and extended it on two standout plays. Channing Frye slammed home an alley-oop and Jason Gardner nailed a three, and the Cats led 17-11.

The teams went back and forth, with Florida tying the game at 20. The Wildcats went on a 7-0 run to lead 27-20, before a Florida's 14-3 run gave the Gators a 34-30 lead of their own.

Two Wildcat freshmen paved the way down the stretch at the end of the half. Isaiah Fox used his size to rebound and get to the foul line. Bynum used his speed to draw to quick fouls of his own. Bynum hit 3-of-4, and Fox converted twice as the Cats went to the locker room with a slim 2-point lead.

Early fouls hurt the Gators. Gardner was fouled driving to the lane and converted the three-point play. Fox followed that up when he scored despite being hammered. The Cats led 45-38.

Then Gardner went off. The Arizona junior scored 11 straight points for the Cats, while the Gators went on a small run of their own. After a Gardner three gave Arizona a 55-46 lead, the Gators went on a 10-3 run, cutting the lead to 58-56.

The Cats held their own, with Bynum stepping up again. The freshman from Chicago knocked down a three with a man staring him in the face. After a big block from Channing Frye, Bynum knocked down another three and the Cats led 67-61.

Florida's Brett Nelson did his best to get the Gators back in the game. He knocked down a three and found Matt Bonner down low and the Gators tied the game at 69.

It was Anderson's chance to be ‘Mr. Clutch' after that. His 18-footer with the shot clock running out gave the Cats a 71-69 lead. After a Florida bucket the Wildcats took possession. The Cats attempted to work the clock down, but Gardner found himself trapped at the top of the key. Gardner called timeout with :03 left on the shot clock. Anderson caught the inbound pass and slashed down the middle, nailing his runner, giving the Wildcats the 73-71 lead.

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(AP Photo/Jeff Zelevansky)

Gardner was named tournament MVP, out playing two highly regarded point guards: Florida's Nelson and MAryland's Steve Blake. The Wildcat junior averaged 23.0 points a game over the two nights.

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