Arizona Survives Overtime Scare

Arizona entered the game against the Hilltoppers looking for their 20th Fiesta Bowl Classic Championship. The Cats struggled in the first half, and it looked like they may lose their second Classic Championship in its 21 years. The second half was close for much of the game, and Western Kentucky tied it up late, forcing overtime. The score remained close during the extra period but Arizona eventually prevailed 86-81.

Arizona struggled in the early portion of the game as the Cats failed to move without the ball and their shot selection was suspect starting the game 4-of-15. The UA kept themselves in the game forcing 13 first half turnovers.

Head Coach Lute Olson utilized his team's depth trying to use fresh legs throughout the game against Western Kentucky. All things told the Cats went nine deep in the game.

The UA offensive struggles continued through the first half and Arizona found themselves trailing by seven points at halftime with the score 39-32. Their defensive stand was less than stellar as the Cats allowed a number of easy shots for the Hilltoppers, especially from Courtney Lee and Anthony Winchester, who didn't look particularly pressured in the first half.

Arizona was out-rebounded by eight in the first half and the Cats clearly had their work cut out for them if they were to come away with a victory. The second half was better for the Cats as they used the strength of a 17-5 run to take a 53-51 lead with 11:51 left in the ball game.

Arizona's shooting performance was much stronger the second half as they converted 10 of 17 attempts mid-way through, but Western Kentucky kept themselves in it as the score was close the entire half.

The Cats took their biggest lead of the game by 10. Hassan Adams was instrumental with a turnaround jumper and the UA's depth obviously affected the Hilltoppers. Chris Rodgers came back down with a three following a Western Kentucky miss, giving Arizona the big lead.

With 3:00 left in the game Western Kentucky made it close again by a score of 72-66 in favor of the Cats. The Hilltoppers hit a three pointer with about 1:30 left on the clock making the score 75-71, but they did not stop there.

Arizona ran down the shot clock but Marcus Williams missed the jumper. Western Kentucky came down and with 37 ticks left on the clock, and the Hilltoppers hit a three, but not before a timeout was called. Western Kentucky came out of the timeout trailing by four.

Lee drove in hard and drew the foul with 33.2 seconds left in the game. He hit both of his free throws and Mustafa Shakur was fouled with 32.2 left in the game, with the UA leading by just two. Shakur missed the front end of the one and one.

The Hilltoppers came down and went for a lay-up but Adams blocked it. With 15.5, Western Kentucky knocked down a two and tied up the ball game. With 9.6 seconds left in the game, Olson called timeout with the game tied at 75 a piece.

Arizona came out of the timeout with Shakur driving. He tried to pass it to Williams but turned the ball over and the UA went to their second overtime game this season.

The UA played well in the extra period as Williams and Adams both hit key lay-ups down the stretch and the Cats led by five with just under a minute left.

With 55.4 ticks left on the clock, Lee drove into the lane and hit a lay-up while being fouled by Ivan Radenovic. Count the free throw and the Cats lead diminished to two. Rodgers missed a jumper and Western Kentucky came up with the board before traveling. With 23 seconds left on the game clock, Arizona took over possession.

Shakur was fouled again with 19.2 left. He made both of them this time giving them an 85-81 lead. The Hilltoppers could not convert and the Cats held on to win by a score of 86-81.

All things told Arizona forced 25 turnovers, resulting in 32 points. As a whole, the Cats shot 42% from the field and were out rebounded 48-35.

Adams had yet another strong performance with 23 points, seven rebounds, two blocks, three steals and three assists. Rodgers also added strong numbers with 19 points and four steals.

It was a two man strike for the Hilltoppers as Lee contributed 21 points, 14 rebounds and four steals, alongside Winchester's 22 points, and eight boards.

Arizona now looks forward in their schedule where they will face the Washington schools beginning with Washington State on Dec. 29th.

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