Wildcats hang on in win over Mississippi State

Arizona utilized superior quickness on defense and on the glass to open a commanding lead, then had to hold off a furious Mississippi State rally at the John R. Wooden Classic in Anaheim. Channing Frye scored 18 points and snared 16 rebounds in the 68-64 Wildcat win.

MSU struggles offensively, yet has decent shooting from three-point range, and it converted three early bombs in the game's early stages as the Bulldogs moved to a 9-4 lead. Arizona was not without spectacular play early. Off an MSU miss, Channing Frye collected a rebound and outlet to Mustafa Shakur, who delivered a picture perfect alley-oop pass to a streaking Hassan Adams for a breathtaking dunk.

Meanwhile, Arizona fought back on the play of its oft-criticized inside game. Frye and Isaiah Fox negated the perceived Bulldog advantage. Frye converted his trademark left-hand hook and a nice up and under move that drew a foul as the UA regained a 16-14 advantage. Salim Stoudamire routinely scorched Mississippi State defenders for open 15-foot looks. Winsome Frazier scored 11 of MSU's first 14 points, including the team's three three-pointers.

One of Arizona's other question marks, defense, became a strength as the first half progressed. While the UA offense leveled off somewhat, Mississippi State went on a six-minute scoring drought. Arizona opened up an 11-point advantage at 35-24, but MSU started to pound the glass down the stretch in the first half and cut the lead to seven. The UA went into the locker room up nine.

The Wildcats outscored MSU 24-10 on the inside in the first half.

Arizona's speed and tenacity on the glass was the difference early in the second half as both teams basically traded buckets, although Mississippi State trimmed the advantage to seven, 59-52, on the UA's 17th turnover, and then came out of a timeout with another steal and a pair of free throws that cut the UA lead to five.

The Shakur to Adams combo gave Arizona a 62-55 lead. Frye blocked a Bulldog delivery, Stoudamire collected the loose ball, and pushed it to Shakur who finished with a perfectly delivered assist to a streaking Adams.

Even though the margin was seven, the UA appeared in control. But that was not the case in the waning moments.

Mississippi State turned the tables and fought back into the contest by virtue of its trademark tenacity, and second-shot opportunities closed the gap. Two Gary Ervin free throws brought MSU to within three with three minutes left. An Ervin layup on a breakaway cut the Bulldog deficit to one with under two minutes remaining.

Arizona's offense melted down. On the ensuing possession, Fox forced up a jumper as the shot clock wound down, and Mississippi State had the ball and an opportunity to take the lead with under a minute to play.

The possession fueled controversy. Adams had a steal, but couldn't hold onto the ball as Ervin slipped underneath, then drove to the bucket. The ruling was that Adams didn't have possession, and as a result, Mississippi State had just three seconds left on the shot clock. Adams recorded a block, and then MSU was forced to foul to get into the bonus.

With 21.5 seconds to go, Jawann McClellan stepped to the line and made one of two.

Mississippi State's last gasp came up empty, and Frye drained a pair of incidental free throws to seal the deal.

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