Cats extinguish the Blazers

BOISE – Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. The UAB Blazers wanted to run against the Wildcats, but it was Arizona who galloped to a 85-63 win to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

Arizona figured out the UAB press and cruised in the second half. Arizona committed 12 first half turnovers, five alone by Salim Stoudamire, but finished the game with just 16. Once they settled down they seemed almost comfortable against the defense.

"We work on the press everyday in practice," Stoudamire admitted. "That is why we came out with confidence."

"I think it is a credit to how quick we adjust," Olson added. "They only had three turnovers in the second half."

Confidence was the key all game long for Stoudamire. He airballed his second shot of the game, but came back to drain his next three-point attempt. Last year such a bad miss might have taken him completely out of his game, but not so against UAB. He finished with 28 points on 5-11 shooting from behind the arc.

Maybe more important was that after the five early turnovers, Stoudamire did not lose the ball again.

"I thought I was too excited and tried to force the issue in the first half," Stoudamire confessed. "Coach (Olson) did a great job of calming me down during halftime, told me to just be patient."

Hassan Adams was huge for the Wildcats. He pumped in 16 point, while grabbing 10 rebounds. He was also crucial in breaking the press. Adams repeatedly brought the ball up as the Wildcat guards lured the pressing Blazers guards away from the Wildcat small forwards.

Although the box score does not tell the whole story, possibly the most important player of the game for the Wildcats was Kirk Walters. Walters scored a career high eight points and gave the Wildcats solid play when Frye and Ivan Radenovic were saddled with four fouls each.

"We were in foul trouble and Kirk Walters gave us 14 quality minutes in the middle," Olson said. "Not only scoring some, but the big thing was his shot blocking and his challenging of shots, when they (UAB) did come inside."

The Wildcats were just as efficient on defense as they were on offense. Mixing man-to-man and the 1-3-1 zone, the Cats forced UAB into just 32.8% sooting. Their 63 points were almost 15 less than their season average.

The opening minutes saw the Wildcats struggle to adjust to the UAB pressure. Although the Blazers went without a full-out press, they did apply a lot of on-ball pressure which disrupted the Wildcats on offense.

The Blazers held a slim lead throughout the early going and when Olson went to the bench UAB really went to the full-out press but never took a commanding lead. Their biggest lead never climbed by more than five.

Adams sparked a 9-0 Wildcat run with a three-point play and using his speed to break the press. Frye, Chris Rodgers and Jawann McClellan all scored on dunks or lay-ins to give the Cats a 26-20 lead.

The Wildcat took a sizeable lead into the half by outscoring UAB 10-3 before the break. Stoudamire scored five quick points, to start the run. He nailed a three and then converted a pair of free throws. Radenovic then added the final five points of the half and the Cats had a 40-31 lead going into the locker room.

The Blazers came out strong. They scored eight of the first twelve points and cut the Wildcat lead to just five.

It was as close as the Blazers would get.

The Cats responded a few minutes later with a 13-3 run, with Stoudamire, Rodgers and Adams all getting to the line. When the smoke cleared the Cats had a 60-43 lead.

Arizona finished strong, going up by 20 on a pair of Kirk Walters' free throws.

The Wildcats advance to their 12th Sweet 16 under Olson and will face either Oklahoma State or Southern Illinois in the Chicago Region.

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