Disappointing season, ends with disappointing loss

RALEIGH, NC--If one game can sum up a season it was the Wildcats' 80-76 loss to Seton Hall in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Arizona started off strong, but faded at the end when mental and physical errors cost them any shot at the win. It marks an end to one of the strangest seasons in school history.

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Arizona led by as many as 14 points before Seton Hall went on runs of 23-5 and 10-3 to win the game. The Wildcats trailed by as many as six in the final minutes, but had a chance to tie the game late. Andre Iguodala's off balanced three-point attempt rattled in and out. Hassan Adams was fouled going for the rebound, but made just one of two free throws.

Chris Whitney hit a pair of foul shots to ice the game.

Whitney was the story for the Pirates. The 6-8 center was a beast on the boards, grabbing eight offensive rebounds and scoring a game-high 24 points. Whitney had severe cramps late in the game and had to actually be assisted off the court.

"The biggest problem we encountered was containing Whitney on the inside," said a dismayed Lute Olson.

In many ways the game mirrored the season for the Cats. Arizona started the season 10-1 but finished a paltry 10-9 as things unraveled, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

"This is not the kind of year we're accustomed to having," Olson said. "20-10 is not acceptable. Losing in the first round of the playoffs is not acceptable."

That same script was played out in the game. Arizona led by as many as 14, but came unglued and allowed the Pirates to go out on the two big runs. The Wildcats played solid defense for 25 minutes and had one of their best passing nights of the season. While they held the lead the Cats made the extra pass and found the open man. As things started to fall apart, the Cats rushed shots and missed defensive assignments.

"We have a hard time living with prosperity," Olson noted.

The game was billed as a battle between Andre Barrett and Salim Stoudamire, and it was the Pirate point guard who got the best of the match-up. Barrett was held in check for the first half, but exploded down the stretch, finishing with 19 points and six assists.

With the game tied at 64, Barrett hit back to back buckets to put Seton Hall up for good.

Stoudamire did everything but score. It appeared as if the junior shooting guard's injured wrist was still bothering him as he did not look for the three-point shot in the early stages. He made just 1-5 threes, getting most of his 11 points from free throws.

Stoudamire played solid defense for most of the contest and looked to pass quite a bit as he racked up four assists.

Iguodala came out of his funk and played a remarkable game, at least offensively. He was aggressive early and finished with 19 points. However, he only grabbed three rebounds and dished just one assist, but made up for it with some clutch shooting that he rarely displayed this season.

Early on the Wildcats played better than they have all year. They passed well and took good shots. They were active on the defensive end, making the Pirates work for their shots. The Wildcats repeatedly exploited the Pirate defense, getting a cutter free on the baseline over and over. When the Pirates finally stopped the penetration, the run began.

Arizona's guards did a great job finding the open man in the early stages. The Wildcats showed a great ability to get to the hoop by either driving or finding the cutter. Frye got things started by taking advantage of a fallen defender and getting an easy lay-in. Iguodala answered a Barrett three with a drive. Two of the next three Wildcat baskets saw a cutting Wildcat rewarded for their work without the ball. Stoudamire hit a streaking Frye, while Shakur found Adams all alone down low. Despite all the great ball movement, the Cats only led 10-6, thanks in part to Frye tipping in a basket for the Pirates while trying to grab a defensive rebound.

Arizona slowly built a 10 point lead. The Cats used 7-0 and 6-0 scoring burst to gain the double-digit lead. A pair of Stoudamire free throws capped the 6-0 mini-run and gave the Wildcats a 28-18 lead.

The Cats were cruising, but Seton Hall made a move just before the half. The Cats missed some easy buckets while the Pirates did not. Whitney and Sweet scored six of Seton Hall's last nine points as they outscored Arizona 9-3 to end the half.

Arizona took a 37-31 lead into the intermission.

The Pirates went back to Whitney to start the second half, but it was the Wildcats who had the success. Whitney scored the Pirates' first five points, but the Wildcats answered each run with a bucket of their own. The lead jumped back to double figures when a Frye three-point play and an Adams dunk gave Arizona a 49-38 lead.

Arizona led by as many as 14 with 15:03 remaining before the Pirates retook the lead thanks to 23-5 run. John Allen scored six straight points to spark the run and a pair of J.R. Morris threes gave Seton Hall the push they needed to wrestle the lead from the Wildcats.

Arizona tied the game, but let the Pirates rattle off another 10-2 run to seal the win. Arizona had a few last chances, but the Pirates shot just well enough down the stretch to keep the comeback at bay.

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