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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Cutting down the Trees

Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat

University of Arizona meets Stanford University in an NCAA mens basketball game at McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz., Jan. 28, 2010. Arizona went on to win 76-68.
Michael Ignatov
Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona meets Stanford University in an NCAA men’s basketball game at McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz., Jan. 28, 2010. Arizona went on to win 76-68.

Arizona might as well write itself a script.

The Wildcats dropped the Stanford Cardinal 76-68 in McKale Center Thursday night, and for the third game in a row, the undersized Wildcats (11-9, 5-3 Pacific 10 Conference) avoided a meltdown with sharp free throw shooting and strong rebounding to finish off a Pacific 10 conference foe.

“”I would say tonight’s win is very satisfying,”” head coach Sean Miller said. “”It was a night when things didn’t go well for us on offense.””

The Wildcats only shot with 33 percent accuracy but used 19 offensive rebounds and 18 Cardinal turnovers to trump a resilient Stanford (10-10, 4-4) squad.

“”We made (rebounding) a point of emphasis all week before the game,”” point guard Nic Wise said. “”We’re a smaller team but we still want to be one of the best rebounding teams. We’re sending three players to the glass and lot of times the ball would just fall in your hands.””

Freshman Derrick Williams again led Arizona with 23 points and eight rebounds. He gave his team its first five points after the halftime break by netting two free throws and then stepping behind the 3-point line and hitting nothing but string to give UA a 42-33 lead.

Arizona soon increased its advantage to 44-34 but after poor defense on a Cardinal inbounds play and then a 3-pointer by Stanford guard Jeremy Green, Arizona saw its lead cut to four with 15:17 left. Green and forward Landry Fields accounted for 56 of Stanford’s 68 points, while no other Cardinal scored more than five points.

“”One shot, I could have swore my hand was in Green’s face, and there was no way he could have seen the basket but somehow the shot just went in,”” said sophomore guard Kyle Fogg.

Wise, who had 14 points and hit 10-for-12 from the foul line, hit two free throws with 13:07 left in the game and Fogg followed with a 3-pointer to turn the tide in Arizona’s favor. A Williams dunk set the McKale crowd wild and gave the Wildcats a 51-40 lead.

The Cardinal hung around. Fields threw down a dunk on an out-of-bounds play, one of many that UA failed to defend, and soon the Arizona’s lead was cut to five.

“”We always have about an eight … ten point lead late,”” Wise said. “”It just comes down to getting stops and making free throws.””

And Arizona did just that.

With the score 64-55 in Arizona’s favor and 3:32 remaining, the Wildcats avoided an end-of-the-game meltdown. Fogg hit a floating hook with about three minutes to go to give his team a double-digit, 66-55 lead, but the Cardinal cut the lead to 69-64 with under a minute remaining.

“”We don’t finish games necessarily well,”” Miller said. “”I thought our defense forced some turnovers and we really stayed with it, grinded it out. That’s a sign of our team growing.””

Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins went with a zone in the second half, something Miller said he wasn’t surprised to see given Stanford’s injuries — five of its players were held out of the game — and foul trouble.

Arizona grabbed an early 9-3 lead to start the game, but the Cardinal quickly rallied and went ahead 16-11.

Green often scored early and often despite having a wrapped right wrist. He had 25 points and hit a 3-pointer with 22.2 seconds left in the game, bringing his team within four points (71-67) and casting doubt in the McKale crowd.

In the first 10 minutes of the game, Arizona kept up with Stanford’s scoring pace with a number of offensive rebounds and put-backs.

With Arizona down 24-21 and Fields on fire, Miller brought Horne, Fogg and Williams off the bench, but it was freshman guard Momo Jones who led the Wildcats on a 14-4 run, earning four assists on four consecutive plays.

Jones penetrated and kicked the ball to Horne in the left corner for a 3-pointer to tie the game at 24, then the fiery guard twice penetrated and dished to guard Brendon Lavender for two 3-pointers in the same left corner.

“”We’re going to stay with Brendon (Lavender),”” Miller said. “”He leads our team in (practice) 3-point percentage. It’s just translating that into a game. It was great to see him make a couple.””

Jones then found Williams for a 3-point play underneath the basket, which bumped the UA lead to 35-28 with 2:06 remaining before halftime.

The four-play series gave a hint at the development of the team over the past month.

“”I knew we had a lot of potential,”” Fogg said. “”But the way we’re playing right now, we’re playing so much harder and so much together. We’re just going to try to keep this streak going.””


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