Men’s Hoops: Wildcats overcome slow start to defeat SDSU

UA forward Jordan Hill leaps for a dunk in the Wildcats 69-56 win over San Diego State on Wednesday night in McKale Center. Hill registered 25 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks - all game highs.

UA forward Jordan Hill leaps for a dunk in the Wildcats’ 69-56 win over San Diego State on Wednesday night in McKale Center. Hill registered 25 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks – all game highs.

Bryan Roy

Arizona 69, San Diego State 56

They started with a sloppy, scrappy first-half, only to be relieved by a sudden surge of energy some point after halftime. Once again, it was the Arizona men’s basketball team who avoided a spoil and clawed back from a lackluster beginning.

San Diego State proved no exception. Wednesday night was no different. The Wildcats (6-2) woke up from another slow start for a 69-56 win over the Aztecs (7-2) in McKale Center.

“”I thought we took some big steps in the growth and maturation of some of our players,”” said UA head coach Russ Pennell. “”I’m extremely proud of our team tonight.””

And once again, it was Jordan Hill with his supporting cast of starters that made the majority of contributions.

Hill recorded a career-high 25 points, 14 rebounds and 6 blocks – all game highs – in a physical battle that brought a Pacific 10 Conference feel to it.

UA point guard Nic Wise had a hot hand from beyond the arc, going 3-for-6 from 3-point land, while Chase Budinger added a modest 14 points and 6 rebounds after recovering from a rough first half.

Quite literally, a rough first half.

Throughout the first 20 minutes, SDSU out-hustled the Wildcats with more overall aggression – tougher bumps, better cuts and physical shoves under the hoop led Pennell to address his own team’s defensive intensity for the second half.

“”We were just getting man-handled under the basket,”” Pennell said.

Rebounding woes plagued the Wildcats throughout much of the first half, resulting in 12 second-chance points for SDSU. The Aztecs recorded 25 rebounds – 13 of which offensive – compared to Arizona’s 15.

Arizona went into the locker room trailing 26-21 to San Diego State after the scrappy first half.

On top of that, the Wildcats committed mental errors, such as ghost passes, sloppy turnovers and missed easy buckets.

Still, they dug through.

“”Earlier I just think we were out of sync,”” said UA forward Kyle Fogg, who delivered solid defensive stops and clutch rebounds in the second half. He finished the game with 9 points and 6 rebounds on a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor.

Arizona returned from halftime focused on boxing out, resulting in all 14 of its second-chance points in the second half.

They also clamped down on SDSU’s air space around the parameter – the first time effectively this season. The Aztecs shot just 5-of-26 from beyond the arc.

“”It took a lot of weight off our shoulders,”” Hill said of coming back for the victory.

UA forward Jamelle Horne (8 points, 4 rebounds) muscled a half court-length pass while falling to break SDSU’s full-court press.

On the receiving end, Hill forwarded a flashy behind-the-back pass to Budinger, who found himself alone under the basket and slammed down a dunk with 9:08 remaining to put the Wildcats up 52-45.

The play was featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10 as No. 4.

Hill scored on the next possession with a 19-foot jump shot to put Arizona up by nine.

“”I thought overall (Hill) was very dominant,”” Pennell said. “”He just showed why he’s one of the best centers in the country.””

Arizona ended the game with a defensive lockdown and shut the Aztecs out 11-0 for the final 4:16, but not before a slight scare.

SDSU guard D.J. Gay tied the game at 54-54 with a 3-pointer with 5:14 remaining, giving the Aztecs a longer chance to linger.

“”They were trying to hit 3s, but we did a real good job on the defensive end,”” Hill said.

And 1

Lorrenzo Wade’s 3-pointer give the Aztecs a 13-12 lead were his first points since being suspended in late September. Wade was reportedly involved in an incident on Sept. 21 in which a television was stolen from a woman’s residence. He led the Aztecs with 14.8 points and 3.6 assists per game last season.

SDSU’s only two losses have come from Arizona and ASU.

Freshman Kyle Fogg started in place of Garland Judkins, who didn’t travel to Texas A&M last week for failing to meet team obligations.

Judkins played the final two minutes of the first half.

The Aztecs’ bench outscored the Wildcats’ 28-0.

The Zona Zoo section showed its best attendance of the season. Students almost filled the entire section completely, aside from the upper tier. The official attendance was listed at 13,156.