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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Big second half surges Wildcats

    Arizona 66, Washington State 56

    Photo by Alan Walsh/Arizona Daily Wildcat
    UA forward Jordan Hill leaps for a dunk in a 66-56 win over Washington State on Saturday in McKale Center. The Wildcats went on a 24-2 run in the second half to win their third straight game.

    For most of the season, the Arizona men’s basketball team has been dangerously reliant on its three starting juniors.

    After all, this was the same three – The Big Three – that combined for 140 points over the Wildcats’ previous two games.

    And although Nic Wise, Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger weren’t at the peak of their production on Saturday morning, they still combined for 62 percent of the Wildcats’ scoring total in a 66-56 win over Washington State (12-9, 4-5 Pacific 10 Conference) in McKale Center.

    They just didn’t pick it up until the second half.

    “”I kinda of needed to just stop settling for jump shots,”” said Budinger, who scored a team-high 19 points on just 5-for-17 shooting to go with a 7-for-7 performance from the free-throw line. “”I had to get to the rim and get to the free-throw line and that’s what I did. I was more aggressive taking the ball to the hoop and getting easy free throws (in the second half).””

    The Wildcats (14-8, 4-5) got an offensive boost from sophomore Zane Johnson, who netted 10 points, and freshman Kyle Fogg, whose 15 points was one shy of his career-high that was set on Thursday against Washington.

    Budinger scored 17 of his points and Wise scored all 6 of his points in the second half.

    Hill scored 16 total points with half coming in the final 20 minutes. He also pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds, while helping to hold WSU’s big man, Aron Baynes, to 12 points and 14 rebounds.

    Each team finished shooting an identical 22-for-55 (40 percent) from the floor, but Arizona went into halftime down 28-23. Heavy defense in the second half, however, let the Wildcats surge offensively.

    “”I thought the first half – I thought we played well, I just thought we were running uphill a bit,”” said UA interim head coach Russ Pennell. “”I don’t know if that’s just the energy we used against Washington, or the length of a season, or an 11 o’clock start.

    “”We don’t like our guys to use excuses, so I won’t use any either,”” Pennell added “”… But the second half we came out and got aggressive.””

    Arizona was down 39-32, and then took off.

    With 13:25 left in the game, Wise knocked down a 3-pointer for the first half of his 6 total points. He stole the ball on the other end of the floor, and then Budinger made his first 3-pointer of the game, cutting WSU’s lead to 39-38, waking up the crowd in the arena.

    Arizona’s Big Three combined for 10 unanswered points, and Fogg ended a 16-0 UA run with a layup, putting Arizona ahead, 48-39.

    After Taylor Rochestie scored a basket for the Cougars, Arizona went on another 8-0 run, thanks to a Wise jumper and 3-pointers from Budinger and Johnson.

    “”I think my confidence is up, but I think it’s the whole team,”” Johnson said. “”I think when one person plays hard and one person just dives after the ball, everyone else is following him.””

    The 24-2 run gave the Wildcats a 56-41 cushion with 4:25 to go.

    Only Rochestie kept the Cougars in the game, scoring 12 straight points for his team over a 12-minute stretch.

    “”We can’t keep letting them score on us,”” said Rochestie, who scored a game-high 22 points. “”We know what works and what doesn’t. We know that we can’t keep letting them go on long runs.””

    Three other Cougars made baskets down the stretch, but by then it was too late.

    “”The second half felt like a bad dream,”” said WSU forward Daven Harmeling. “”Everything was getting away from us. Arizona is a very explosive team, especially in the second half.””

    Check out the Arizona Daily Wildcat on Monday in print and online for extended coverage of Saturday’s game.

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