The Wildcat guards were the story. Salim Stoudamire and Jason Gardner were warriors. Gardner played the full 40 minutes and late in the second half a sweating, tired Stoudamire would not leave the floor despite nearly gasping for air during a timeout.
Stoudamire scored a career high 32 points to lead all scorers. He was 6-of-9 from behind the arc, but also did a remarkable job of getting into the lane for difficult lay-ups.
Gardner was impressive, scoring 23 points, dishing six assists and grabbing seven rebounds. More importantly he kept calm in the face of the Kansas defensive pressure. His expression never changed, whether the Wildcats were down 20 or up 10.
Arizona may have jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but Jeff Graves quickly proved that nothing would be easy for the Wildcats. Following a Keith Langford three, the 6-9 junior scored six straight points to give Kansas the lead. Graves was the first to exploit the Wildcat defensive woes, twice getting alone underneath and grabbing an uncontested offensive rebound.
A Gardner lay-in trimmed the Kansas lead to 9-8, but after that it was all Kansas during the first half. Kansas shot 64.7% for the half and used an 18-6 run to build a 27-14 lead.
Arizona had one of their worst performances on defense, which counteracted a decent first half on the offensive end. The Cats shot 51.9% in the first half.
Keith Langford was able to score at will, getting 22 first half points. Nick Collison was a chore to defend as well. The Jayhawk guards were able to find him cutting to the basket, and when he was out of the paint he banked home a three-pointer.
Down 20, Arizona used an 8-0 run to climb back into the game and the momentum seemed to swing Arizona's way when Gardner was fouled on the inbounds pass with four seconds left in the half. Gardner sank both freethrows and Arizona went to the locker room down just 13, 52-39.
The Cats exploded out of the halftime locker room and never looked back. The Jayhawks went without a fieldgoal for almost 6:00 and three straight three pointers gave Arizona the lead for good.
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