Arizona sweats out a win over Gauchos

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—It wasn't easy, in fact the game was in doubt in the final minutes, but Arizona managed an 86-81 win over UC-Santa Barbara in their first round NCAA Tournament game. The Wildcats played a horrid first half and survived a career night by UCSB's Mark Hull to pull out the win.

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The Wildcats need two late free throws from Salim Stoudamire before they could feel comfortable with the lead. Stoudamire, who earlier missed a pair of technical free throws, calmly stepped to the line and hit two with 12 seconds left that gave the Wildcats a five-point cushion. He added another pair with 4.3 left to ice the game.

Hull was amazing on the night, the junior forward was 8-11 from behind the arc and sparked the 13-seeded Gauchos to a near upset over the highly favored Wildcats with 32 points.

Jason Gardner was just a clutch for the Wildcats. At times it appeared the junior guard was willing his freshman laden squad to victory. Gardner scored 28 points and dished out five assists.

Arizona came out and played like they were still shocked at the Gonzaga score from the game before. After jumping out to a 7-2 lead the Cats played about as poorly as they could. After getting out to a very early 7-2 lead, the Wildcats went cold and forgot how to play Arizona basketball. The Wildcats managed to score just 14 points in the next 11:30.

"The first half we were so impatient and our shooting percentage reflected it," Lute Olson said.

The Wildcats committed nine first half turnovers, while shooting 32.1% from the field. At the same time the Gauchos were a staggering 75% from behind the arc, nailing 9-of-12 three pointers.

As bad as the Wildcats were playing and as hot as the Gauchos were shooting, UCSB simply couldn't do much with the opportunities. The Gauchos were able to stay close, even take small leads, but they could not make the necessary runs to put the more talented Wildcats in a serious hole. Despite perfect 6-for-6 shooting from Mark Hull and a strong inside play from Mike Vuckovich, the Gauchos could only manage a 35-32 at the half.

Arizona came out of the locker room a more poised and calm team. Gardner opened the half with a three to tie the game, and then it was Channing Frye's turn. The freshman center scored seven of the Wildcats' next nine points for a 45-41 lead.

The Cats looked in control when Gardner and Anderson hit back-to-back threes and put the Wildcats up 53-43. Just when it looked like the Cats would live up to their No. 3 seed, Hull struck again nailing another three and then getting two free throws to fall.

Anderson had a huge night for the Wildcats. Sporting a new hair cut, the rangy forward scored 19-points and led the team with nine rebounds. Anderson was aggressive and got hot beyond the arc at the right time, connecting on his last three three-point attempts.

The Gauchos got the Wildcat lead down to four, 59-55 with 9:40 to go and it was Hull who kept them close. The junior forward scored 12-out-of-14, and five in a row for the Gauchos to keep them close. If he wasn't bombing from the outside, then he was driving and getting to the line and hitting all of his free throws.

Using the longball Arizona built up a 10-point lead and then watched the three-pointer get UCSB back in the game. Anderson and Salim Stoudamire hit back-to-back treys that put the Wildcats up 10. The Gauchos used two of their own, combined with some good mid-range shooting and were down just six, 78-72 with 2:30 to play.

Arizona will face Wyoming on Saturday with a chance to advance to their second straight Sweet-16.


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