Texas Rally Falls Short Against No. 9 Arizona

<P>Trailing by 19 with less than eight minutes remaining at the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden Tuesday, No. 6 Texas went on a 17-5 run against No. 9 Arizona to draw within seven. Then the shots quit falling. </P>

After freshman forward P.J. Tucker’s bucket narrowed the Wildcat lead, 84-77, Texas missed seven straight shots -- including a maddening barrage of point blank put back attempts -- only to come up empty in the closing minutes as Arizona held off the Longhorn rally to claim a 91-83 win. Texas has now dropped eight straight contests against the ‘Cats.

Head coach Rick Barnes expressed disappointment that his starting seniors were uncharacteristically rattled and unproductive and that Texas’ post men weren’t more involved in the offense. Senior G Brandon Mouton was an ice-cold 3-of-16 FG and fouled out with 10 points. Senior G Royal Ivey, a New York native, was just 3-of-15 for 11 points in front of the home folks but added 11 assists. Texas’ post players were hardly a factor as sophomore F Brad Buckman couldn’t buy a bucket (0-of-5 FG) while C James Thomas was a quiet 4-of-7 for 8 points and just four rebounds.

In fact, this one would have been real ugly if Tucker, senior F Brian Boddicker and junior G Kenny Taylor had not combined to score 41 bench points. For the third time this season, Tucker was his team’ scoring leader with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Boddicker added 13 points (5-of-8 FG) while Taylor tallied his 12 points with four treys.

Overall, the Horns struggled from the field, shooting just 36 percent (32-of-89) and trailed by double digits for most of the second half despite taking 22 more shots than Arizona. The Wildcats’ balanced scoring attack was good for 48 percent (32-of-67 FG).

The Horns had no answer for sophomore G Hassan Adams, who registered a career-high 30 points (12-of-21, 3-of-5 FT) after averaging 11.7 ppg and just 39 percent from the field before the Texas game. Adams’ fireworks overshadowed sophomore F Andre Iguodala’s triple double, who contributed 13 points, 13 boards and 10 assists. Junior G Salim Stoudamire added 17 points, all in the second half.

Although Texas posted a 53-48 rebounding edge, it could not consistently convert offensive boards into scores as the Cats posted nine blocks. The Horns also struggled in their transition game against the more explosive Wildcats.

Arizona opened with a 7-0 run before Mouton sank a pair from the charity stripe 2:02 into the ballgame. Boddicker’s trey trimmed the deficit, 11-5, at the 16:01 mark. Harris’ shot from beyond the arch narrowed the margin, 14-10, while Taylor’s three-pointer kept the Horns close, 18-16.

Edgar Moreno’s lay-up gave Texas its first lead, 20-18, to complete a 10-2 run with 12:32 remaining until intermission. The Horns trailed by a bucket before Thomas tied it at 28 with 6:19 on the game clock. Arizona responded with pair of FGs before Tucker finally got on the stat sheet with his strong move up top to cut the Wildcat lead, 32-30 at the 4:40 mark. Despite shooting just 30 percent from the field Texas trailed just 37-36.

But Arizona went on a 12-2 run during a stretch of 2:30, capped by Stoudamire’s trey at the 15:32 mark. Texas went 4:23 without a FG as the ‘Cats built a 61-43 lead with 12:50 remaining.

Tucker, who is already a force to be reckoned with, finally answered for Texas with back-to-back buckets. Taylor’s second trey of the night made it a 66-52 game halfway through the final frame. But Adam’s wide-open shot from beyond the arch opened up Arizona’s largest lead of the game, 79-60.

Taylor’s third three-pointer launched the 17-5 run in which Stoudamire completed a four-point play after Mouton fouled him on a successful trey. Boddicker hit successive three-pointers as Texas was suddenly within 11 at 84-73 with 3:17 left.

The Horns turned up the defensive pressure with its half court trap, forcing back-to-back turnovers, including a 10-second violation. Tucker’s bucket narrowed the margin, 84-77, but that’s when Texas missed shot, after shot, after shot, after shot, after shot, after shot, after shot, squandering both its advantage on the offensive boards and shot at pulling the comeback.

Taylor’s fourth trey made it 86-80 but all Texas could do was continue to foul with just 31 seconds remaining.

Texas, now 4-1, will try to rebound against New Orleans, 6 p.m. (CST) Sunday at the Erwin Center before returning to the Garden on Dec. 20 for a showdown with Duke.

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