Cats fend off Aztecs

SAN DIEGO-It was billed as a homecoming for Luke Walton, but it was fellow Californian Rick Anderson who had the big outing. After being held to just two points in the first half, the senior from Long Beach exploded for 15 second half points and the Wildcats won 89-81 over San Diego State.

Anderson was instrumental in other areas as well. He pulled down 10 rebounds, had a pair of blocked shots and was key in the full court press guarding the inbounds pass. With the Cats scoring 89 points, Anderson found himself getting well aquatinted with Deandre Moore the Aztec inbounds passer

"Here we go again," Anderson joked midway through the second half.

Will Bynum was the story in the first half. The sophomore hit three three-pointers and scored 14 points in the first 20:00 to pace the Wildcats and finished with a game-high 19.

"Will competed very hard I thought," Lute Olson said. "He shot the ball well. He did other things for us as well."

Walton and Jason Gardner struggled mightily from the field, but were key with their passing. The senior duo was just a combined 3-16, but dished out four and six assists respectively.

"We have such a good team that we don't have to go out and score to win," Walton said of his and Gardner's shooting woes.

Deandre Moore was the story for San Diego State. The Aztec point guard had 16 points and eight assists and generally outplayed the higher-profile Gardner.

While Moore was having a stellar game, the Aztecs Tony Bland was struggling. The senior shot a paltry 7-21 from the field, but did have 16 points.

Arizona was slow out of the gate, but despite sloppy play the Aztecs could not do much damage. The Wildcats committed four turnovers and had trouble getting its offense on track, but their defense was stellar causing the home team to shoot just 27 percent over the first 7:30.

Lute Olson stayed with his starting five for over five minutes but it was the bench that provided a spark. Andre Iguodala looked hesitant early on, but Hassan Adams and Bynum had no such trepidation. The Cats trailed 10-7 when the duo entered the fray and two quick Bynum threes combined with an Adams breakaway dunk and a Gardner runner gave the Wildcats a 17-12 lead.

The Aztecs received a spark of their own. Two players making their debuts gave the Aztecs instant offense. Freshman Evan Burns and Oregon State transfer Chris Manker scored five straight to tie the game at 17. Burns gave up a basket to Gardner but streaked down the court and dunked home an alley-oop on his first collegiate shot attempt. Manker was just as successful, knocking down a three-pointer from the top of the key on his first shot attempt.

Arizona showed just token defensive pressure in the early going, but intensified the pressure towards the end of the half. The tactic worked as the Wildcats went on runs of 8-2 and 11-3 to take a 44-35 halftime lead. The press caused a couple of turnovers but it also kept the Aztec offense out of synch.

The Wildcats came out of the locker room to begin the second half and it became the Rick Anderson show. Before the first timeout Anderson scored nine of the Wildcats' first 15 points. Walton and Iguodala added three-pointers but the Aztecs kept pace scoring 12 points of their own, including threes by Deandre Moore and Tony Bland.

The Cats took a 19-point lead 10:53 left thanks to a 10-2 outburst, but San Diego State scored six straight and a Bland dunk cut the margin to 70-57 with 9:00 to play.

"I thought we had a chance to blow the game open but we made some bad decisions," Olson said. "We had four consecutive plays where we turned the ball over and got too fancy. We became impatient with quick shots."

Arizona may have thought they had the game in hand, but nobody told the Aztecs. The Wildcats rushed a number of shots and the Aztecs made them pay. The Aztecs bided their time and kept chipping away at the lead. A Burns three and tip in had the Aztecs down 78-68 to the nation's top-rated team with just under 4:00 to play

The Aztecs had several opportunities to get even closer, but the Wildcats kept responding on both ends of the court. The Cats played well enough to escape with the win, but San Diego State made things look very close and a last second put-back gave the SDSU a single digit loss.

For the second straight game the Wildcats were lackluster on the defensive boards. The Aztecs had 18 offensive rebounds, which gave them a number of second chance points.

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