Cats serve notice in blowout of USC

Arizona has effectively served notice to the doubters who wondered if a number of lackluster performances would spell trouble for the No. 1 team in the land. The Wildcats played their second straight high-octane game, blowing out USC 86-59.

The Wildcats took a 10-point lead into the locker room, but needed a 32-4 run midway through the second half to blow the game wide open. With 14:48 to play the score was close at 50-48. The Wildcats then exploded at both ends of the court, limiting USC to a lone field goal during the run. The Trojans went 10:21 without a field goal and were held scoreless for almost 5:00. The Trojans shot a paltry 1-20 during the stretch.

"We just try to stay on teams and go on a run," Channing Frye said. "With this type of team and this type of talent we can do that. Once we get a little momentum it's tough to stop us."

USC had no answer for Frye. The sophomore center scored a career high 25 as the Wildcats downed USC for the 18th straight time in Tucson. Frye added a season high 14 rebounds and three blocked shots. He was also very active on defense, altering a number of other shots.

"I just let the game come to me today," Frye said. "My Valentines didn't get my message so I was mad about that."

Frye was aided by great passing from his teammates. When Frye wasn't using the skyhook, he was getting easy lay-ups and dunks on cuts to the basket.

"My teammates kept me in the game," Frye said. "They kept feeding me the ball."

Two other Cats finished in double figures, with two others just a basket away. Jason Gardner had 16 points and five assists. Salim Stoudamire added 10, all in the second half.

Rick Anderson and Andre Iguodala came up just short. Anderson had eight, while Iguodala left the game with nine points.

Luke Walton connected on a pair of three pointers and dished out seven assists.

The Trojans played well in spurts. At times USC was very active on defense, forcing turnovers and keeping the Cats out of a rhythm. USC forced 22 turnovers, 13 coming via steals.

When things went badly, they went very bad. The Cats were on their way to blowing them out, when a fluke shot gave USC a dose of momentum as Jerry Dupree hit a have court three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to keep the Trojans within 10. The Cats went on a pair of large scoring runs that were the difference.

Just two Trojans finished in double figures. Gregg Guenther had 10 and Desmon Farmer led the Trojans with 11. Guenther was also a beast on the boards, grabbing 10 rebounds.

Arizona took the lead on the opening possession, but USC made it very difficult to build on. Every time the Wildcats started to build a modest lead, the Trojans would answer with a big shot. On two separate occasions the Cats had five-point leads only to see USC answer with a three-pointer.

Frye and Gardner were the stories in the first half. Along with Rick Anderson the three scored all but six of Arizona's 45 points. Frye scored seven of the team's first nine points, while Gardner hit a pair of threes to guide Arizona to an early 19-15 lead.

Turnovers brought the Trojans right back and kept them in the game. The Cats coughed up the ball 12 times, including a stretch of four straight possessions that saw USC go on a 7-0 run. A Robert Hutchison three put USC up 27-26.

The Cats proceeded to go on their obligatory run right before the half. The Cats outscored USC 17-3 before Dupree's half-court heave at the buzzer. After trailing for the second time, 29-28, the Cats scored 11 straight. Frye started the run with a jump hook and then Rick Anderson and Jason Gardner traded buckets. First Anderson hit a 15' jumper, the Gardner stole the ball and took it to the rack. Anderson added a lay-in and Gardner a three before Chris Rodgers sank a pair of free throws.

The Cats had one last shot to further add to the run, but Dupree got the steal off the inbounds and his desperation shot found nothing but net. The buzzer beater cut the Cats' lead to 10, 45-35.

USC took the momentum from Dupree's shot and carried it over to the start of the second half. The Trojan defense kept the Wildcats off balance and catapulted them on a 9-3 run that trimmed the halftime lead from 10 to just four at 48-44.

USC would get it within two before the Cats answered with a 7-0 run that would give them some breathing room. It was the start of a much bigger run that ended any USC hopes. Stoudamire hit a three from the corner and Frye had two-straight put backs, the second a crowd raising dunk.

"I think right now we're kind of putting things together," Gardner said. "We get into the game and wear teams down. We just wore them down."

The Cats' run continued following a Farmer bucket. Farmer cut into the lead with a lay-in, and the Trojans would not score again for almost 5:00. The Cats rattled off 16 straight points to blow the game wide open. Three players scored all 16 points. Stoudamire hit a three and made four free throws. Walton added a pair of three pointers and Hassan Adams threw down an in-bounds lob pass before making 1-of-2 foul shots.

Things would get no better for the Trojans. When the smoke cleared on the run the Cats had outscored the Trojans 34-5.

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