"He's the leader on the floor and he took over," Hassan Adams said. "That's what leaders do."
Gardner may have struggled offensively, shooting just 5-of-14, but he did everything else he needed to do to win. Gardner dished out seven assists and committed just a single turnover. He also led the Wildcats in rebounding, grabbing eight on the defensive boards.
"Games like that happen," Gardner said of the off shooting night. "I didn't lose confidence. I still took the open shot. I don't change my game at all."
T.J. Ford was just as solid as well. The sophomore had 13 points and nine assists, but turned the ball over six times and committed four personal fouls.
The Wildcats had trouble getting into an offensive flow due in part to the physicality of Texas and also to the absence of Luke Walton. With Walton out with an injured ankle, the Longhorns keyed on Gardner and forced the Wildcats out of a rhythm. The Wildcats shot just 39.4%.
"Trying to get a decent look at the basket was a challenge," Olson said.
A pair of inside players had big games. Texas' James Thomas and Arizona's Isaiah Fox both rose up to the challenge. Thomas was a beast on the inside, scoring 20 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Fox had 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting and added five offensive (eight total) rebounds.
Salim Stoudamire had his best game of the season. The injured sophomore hit his first two three-point attempts on his way to totaling 14 points.
Each club had nine players logging double-figures in minutes. Each team also had three scorers in double figures.
It was nip and tuck early on with neither team getting more than a four-point lead. After Texas opened the game with two-straight buckets, Arizona came right back. Arizona went on a modest 4-0 run, then two-straight Salim Stoudamire three-pointers and the Wildcats had an early 16-11 lead.
With T.J. Ford on the bench, Texas kept pace with Arizona and then promptly took the lead when he returned to the game. With their sophomore floor general on the floor, the Longhorns rattled off a 9-2 run and took a 23-22 lead following a Jason Klotz bucket.
However, neither club could hold the momentum very long. Despite shooting just 34% and getting one bucket from Jason Gardner, the Cats and Longhorns were tied 34--34 at the half.
Arizona used good defense to spark a run early in the second half. The Cats grabbed the momentum on the defensive end and is used good transition play to go out to an 11-3 run. Following a stop, the Cats were able to go into transition to jump-start the offense and earn a modest 47-40 lead.
As soon as it looked like the Wildcats might run away with it, Texas came right back taking advantage of the Cats sloppy play. The Wildcats were terrible on the offensive end, failing to take care of the ball and repeatedly rushing shots.
After that the game was a see saw, with neither team leading by more than three until Gardner's two late buckets. Texas had a last chance to tie the game on its last possession. After Gardner made just one of two free throws, Texas came down and the Longhorns had a good look on a three pointer that would have tied the game, but Ford miss a three-pointer from the top of the key. The shot hit the back iron and Texas could not sink the follow-up. Gardner grabbed the rebound and flung the ball down court to seal the win.
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