Cats clinch crown with win over Cardinal

PALO ALTO, Calif.-Arizona fended off everything Stanford threw at them and escaped from Maples Pavilion with a 72-69 win and the regular season Pac-10 Championship. The Cardinal had two chances to tie the game in the final seconds, but neither shot fell and Arizona swept the Bay Area series for the fourth straight year.

Rick Anderson airballed the front end of a one-for-one that would have sealed the game for the Wildcats giving the Cardinal one last chance. Josh Childress missed a three-pointer from the top, but Nick Robinson kept the ball alive and got it out to Julius Barnes on the wing. Barnes' three-pointer was off target and the ball went out of bounds as time expired.

"I was standing their wide-open, it just didn't drop," Barnes said. "We're not hanging our heads. Their the number one team in the land."

The Wildcats played well, but could not keep the stronger Cardinal big men off the offensive glass. Stanford had 19 offensive rebounds, which kept them in a game where they shot just 35.4%.

Justin Davis and Rob Little exerted their will down low, pushing around the thinner Wildcat post players. The two combined for eight offensive rebounds and 22 points.

Josh Childress was the real story for Stanford. With Arizona shutting down Julius Barnes and Matt Lottich, the lanky sophomore took things into his own hands and led all scorers with 20 points. Childress also ripped down 10 rebounds as he went the full 40 minutes for the Cardinal.

"Childress was tough for us to handle, but he's tough for everyone to handle," said Lute Olson.

Barnes and Lottich combined to go 5-24 from the field and were a meager 1-13 from behind the arc. The pair scored 37 in Tucson earlier in the year, with Lottich making 5-8 from the outside.

It was Salim Stoudamire who paced the Wildcats. The sophomore shooter scored 18, despite making just 1-of-4 three-pointers. Stoudamire did a great job getting into the lane and scoring in the paint.

The three Wildcat seniors all finished in double figures and played a steady game. The Wildcats committed just one turnover in the second half and just seven overall. Luke Walton and Jason Gardner combined for eight of Arizona's nine assists.

"I think if there was a difference it was the play of their three seniors," said Stanford coach Mike Montgomery.

Lute Olson shortened his bench even more than normal. All five starters played at least 25 minutes, with all but Channing Frye logging 30 or more and Stoudamire, Gardner and Rick Anderson playing 38 apiece.

Walton led all rebounders with 11.

Whether it was nerves or just good defense, both clubs were off their game early. The Cats got on the board first when Walton found Anderson cutting to the hole, but after that the Wildcats would miss their next seven shots. The Cardinal were not much better. Josh Childress made a runner in the lane and Lottich added a 16-footer, but for the most part neither the Cardinal nor the Wildcats could get it going. The game was tied at just 4-4 at the 15:00 mark. The teams warmed up a bit coming out of the first timeout, but for the most part the first half would be a defensive struggle. Lottich and Stoudamire traded three pointers before the Wildcats scored eight of the next 10 to build up a modest 15-11 lead.

Childress scored six straight for the Cardinal and his three-pointer from the wing tied the contest at 17.

The Cats built up another four-point lead before Stanford rattled off seven quick points to take a 24-21 lead. Justin Davis did the damage, scoring five points, including a power dunk to give his team their three point lead.

Neither team could grab the momentum before the half. A technical on the Stanford bench gave Arizona a three point play, but the Cardinal would retake the lead moments later. The game was knotted at 30 when the Cats set up for the final shot of the half. Gardner drove the lane, but dribbled into trouble and threw an awkward pass to Anderson on the wing. The senior forward sank a three-pointer right before the buzzer and the Wildcats took a three point lead into halftime.

For a brief moment it looked as if the Wildcats would get out on one of their post-halftime runs. Anderson and Stoudamire scored a pair of buckets to open the half to give Arizona a seven point lead at 37-30, but after that neither team could string together more than a single bucket before the other would answer.

Stanford was the first to make a run. The Cardinal would score six in a row and a Nick Robinson lay-in would net the game at 49.

Arizona got out and scored seven straight and then weathered a number of Stanford rallies. On several occasions the Cardinal had a chance to tie or take the lead but either missed a free throw, a bucket or committed a turnover. Hassan Adams forced the turnover, stealing the ball up top and putting in an awkward lay-in. The freshman's fast break points put the Wildcats up 64-61 with just over 4:00 to play.

The Cats held their slim lead by alternating scores with Stanford over the final minutes. Childress hit a long three with 57.4 seconds left to trim the lead to one, but Stoudamire hit a pull up jumper and two free throws to give Arizona the cushion they would need to hold on for the win.

"A loss by three to the number one team in the land isn't all that bad," Barnes said. "We're not hanging our heads at all."

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