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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona suffers first loss of season to No. 6 Kansas

Junior forward Marcus Morris and sophomore center Jeff Withey jump to block the shot of Arizona forward Derrick Williams. Kansas defeated Arizona 87-79 Saturday night to win the 2010 Las Vegas Invitational.
Junior forward Marcus Morris and sophomore center Jeff Withey jump to block the shot of Arizona forward Derrick Williams. Kansas defeated Arizona 87-79 Saturday night to win the 2010 Las Vegas Invitational.

LAS VEGAS — The Arizona basketball team suffered its first loss of the season on Saturday against No. 6 Kansas in Las Vegas, while giving the Jayhawks all they could handle.

Arizona fell to 5-1 in a game where the Wildcats clawed back from 15 points down in the first half to take the lead. Despite falling 87-79, the Wildcats showed the country they could be a team to be reckoned with come March.

“”I knew from day one, as soon as practice started, everybody was ready to play this year,”” said Arizona forward Derrick Williams after the game on Saturday. “”We showed that tonight on the national scale.””

Williams again led the Wildcats with 27 points and eight rebounds before fouling out with 2:31 remaining in the game.

The sophomore stepped up to the challenge presented by Kansas’ twin big-men Markieff and Marcus Morris. Williams scored seven of the Wildcats’ first 12 points and matched them point for point in the first couple minutes of the game.

“”Great players have to play great in big games,”” Williams said. “”I thought I needed to come out and show what I can do.””

Arizona fell behind 33-18 with 10:47 remaining in the first half, in a game that seemed headed for a blowout early on.

But the Wildcats battled back to within five by halftime, which showed the team’s growth over the last year.

“”Last year we would have crumbled, we would have put our head down,”” Williams said of falling behind early. “”If we would have played them last year, they probably would have done the same thing BYU did to us.

“”This year’s team is much more physical and just has a tougher mentality.””

The key spark to the Wildcats’ comeback was junior guard Kyle Fogg, who was replaced in the starting line-up by fellow junior Brendon Lavender after showing a bad attitude against Santa Clara, with 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the field, including 4-for-8 from beyond the arc.

“”To watch him go from last night and play the way he did tonight, says a lot about him,”” Miller said. “”That’s a good sign for our team.””

Guard Jordin Mayes hit a 3-pointer as time ran out in the half, giving Arizona the momentum into halftime, despite trailing 44-39.

The Wildcats took their first lead of the game with 15:10 remaining in the second half after a layup by Solomon Hill.

The Jayhawks’ Morris twins took a toll on the Wildcats down the stretch, evapporating Arizona’s lead, which was as many as four, before two free throws from Tyshawn Taylor made the score 61-60.

From there, Kansas never trailed again after the 8:40 mark.

The Morris twins combined for 31 points and pounded the Wildcats down low during crucial possessions late, knocking out Williams and center Kyryl Natyazhko with three minutes remaining in the contest.

“”(The Jayhawks) do a great job sealing and getting the ball to the block,”” Miller said. “”It has a way of taking its toll against the defense and did tonight against us.””

“”We were playing some good defense but the Morris twins are just great players,”” Fogg added. “”They were hitting fade-aways from the short corner, you can’t really stop that.””

Despite the loss, the question now is if the Wildcats should be ranked since they started the season 5-1 and lost a close game to the No. 6 ranked team.

“”In our opinion, of course,”” said Momo Jones of Arizona’s potential ranking. “”Every team thinks they should be ranked whether they’re good or bad. But for us it’s about getting better and on to the next game. If we so happen to be ranked, better for us and the university.

“”If not, we just have to gotta go out and play hard every night and come March that’s what it’s all about.””

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