March 23, 2001
SAN ANTONIO - Loren Woods and the Arizona Wildcats went out of theirway to stop Mississippi's Rahim Lockhart.
Woods, towering over Lockhart at 7-foot-1, helped contain Mississippi'swide-body center and send the second-seeded Wildcats to a 66-56 victory Fridaynight in the Midwest semifinals.
'It was a huge part of our game plan to double-team Lockhart,' said Woods,who had 16 points and three blocks to 11 points and one block for Lockhart.
'We definitely wanted to try to get the ball out of his hands as much aspossible, or if he did take a shot make sure there were a lot of guys aroundhim.'
Arizona (26-7) will play top-seeded Illinois on Sunday. The Illini beatKansas 80-64 in the second semifinal.
The Wildcats survived a 16-0 first-half punch to trail by only one point atthe half, then took the lead for good early in the second half.
Despite a year of sorrow and tumult that included player suspensions and thedeath of Bobbi Olson, wife of coach Lute Olson, the Wildcats are headed fortheir first regional final since 1998.
Since their coach returned following the loss of his wife, they have been ashot as any team in the country, going 16-2 and winning their first threetournament games by a total of 56 points.
The Wildcats also will be joined in the final eight by two other members ofthe Pac-10, Stanford in the West and Southern California in the East.
Lockhart, who had 24 points against Notre Dame last week as the Rebels(27-8) won their first second-round game ever, was constantly harassed down lowand just 1-of-5 in the first half.
'They came out with a great game plan to double-team me,' he said. 'Inthe first half, I was very tentative and I let them attack me. In the secondhalf, I started to attack. But they have a really good defense.'
Richard Jefferson had 15 points for the Wildcats, who went ice-cold early inthe first half when the third-seeded Rebels wnt on a 16-0 spree, taking an 18-6lead on Jason Holmes' 3-pointer with 10:11 to go.
The Wildcats had four turnovers in a dry spell of 7:11 that did not enduntil Richard Jefferson banked in a 4-footer with 9:50 to go, cutting the leadto 18-8.
But then the Rebels went cold and scored only six points in the final 10:11while Arizona staged runs of 7-0 and 8-0 and trailed at halftime by only onepoint despite going 0-for-6 from 3-point range.
'I thought we had an opportunity to go up by 20,' Ole Miss coach RodBarnes said. 'They missed some shots and then we missed some shots. They're asound defensive team and they sustained their defensive intensity.'
The Wildcats, after making only five of their first 21 shots, hit 19 oftheir final 36 against the rugged Ole Miss defense, which held them to theirsecond-lowest total of the season.
'Their reputation preceded it,' said Woods. 'It was probably the bestdefense I've ever seen.'
The Wildcats had just three assists in the game and were 0-of-8 behind the3-point line.
Justin Reed had 16 points for Mississippi, which won the SEC West despitebeing picked to finish last.
The Wildcats got their lead up to 11 points when Woods dropped in a pair offree throws to make it 48-37 with 8:59 to go. Aaron Harper's bucket cut thelead to 56-52 with 4:03 left, then Woods, when Lockhart picked up his fourthfoul, hit a pair of free throws at the 3:48 mark for a 58-52 lead.
The Wildcats took a 31-26 lead early in the second half with three quick,impressive buckets. Woods put down a monster slam off an alley-oop pass andthen Gilbert Arenas and Richard Jefferson snatched away Ole Miss passes onconsecutive possessions and went coast-to-coast for uncontested layups.
But instead of fading in the face of the 12-point favorites, the Rebelsstopped the surge with a softly banked 10-footer by Justin Reed and a pair offree throws by David Sanders.
'There is no doubt in my mind that we earned respect,' said Sanders.'Making it to the Sweet 16 was a great experience for everyone in this room.'
By DOUG TUCKER
AP Sports Writer