Wildcats Suprise No. 2 Maryland With A 71-67 Win
Nov 8, 2001
By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK - In just the second game of the 2001-02 college basketballseason, Arizona hung up an upset that may be hard to top.
Jason Gardner, the only returning starter from the national runner-up,scored 23 points and the Wildcats shocked No. 2 Maryland 71-67 Thursday nightin the opening round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
The matchup of half of last season's Final Four - Maryland lost to Duke inthe semifinals - was one of teams facing very different seasons. Arizona hadonly Gardner back from its starters, while the Terrapins had four back.
But it's the Wildcats who will play No. 6 Florida in Friday night'schampionship game at Madison Square Garden. The Gators beat No. 16 Temple72-64.
'All the preseason talk, that's people's opinions,' Gardner said. 'Allyou can do is hope the team stays within themselves and believes in themselvesand stays together. All we can do is believe in ourselves.'
Suddenly the rest of the country has to start believing in the Wildcats. Andit was Gardner, whose four-point play gave Arizona the lead for good, leadingthe converts.
'Six of these kids are freshmen and to play in the Garden and play againsta team the quality of Maryland, certainly that is something that will have somekids' knees buckling,' Arizona coach Lute Olson said. 'But I didn't see anyof our guys back off.'
Gardner hit a 3-pointer with 10:32 left that capped an 8-0 run and gave theWildcats a 53-45 lead.
The Terrapins, who matched the highest ranking in school history as thepreseason No. 2, seemed ready to take control as Juan Dixon started a 15-4 runwith two 3-pointers and Maryland had a 60-57 lead with 5:45 to play.
Arizona has five freshmen and a redshirt freshman on its 11-man roster. Butthe Wildcats played like a veteran team with Gardner, a 5-foot-10 junior whoapplied for the NBA draft then withdrew his name, the most savvy of the group.
With the game tied at 61, Arizona had trouble getting the ball upcourtagainst Maryland's pressure and barely beat the 10-second count acrossmidcourt. The ball swung to Gardner right in front of the Arizona bench and hehit a 3 as he was fouled by Lonny Baxter.
'We had trouble against the pressure but Luke Walton is such a great passerand he found me and I just let it go,' Gardner said of the final tiebreaker.'Baxter came at me and I thought he got a piece of it, then I was on the floorand heard the crowd and said 'it must have gone in.''
The Wildcats would not trail again as the Terrapins got within two pointsthree times, the last at 69-67 on a rebound jumper by Chris Wilcox with 4.6seconds left.
Arizona's Rick Anderson made two free throws with 3 seconds left for thefinal margin.
Walton, the only other significant player back from last year's team thatlost to Duke in the final, added 12 points and 12 rebounds for Arizona.Freshman Salim Stoudamire had 12 points.
'I talked to the freshmen before the game,' Gardner said. 'I told them tobelieve in ourselves and enjoy the experience. I think a lot of them did.'
Dixon led Maryland with 21 points and Baxter had 14 points and ninerebounds.
'Arizona seemed more excited than us,' Maryland coach Gary Williams said.'Some players just assume things, that things will continue from the yearbefore, but that isn't so.
'We started 1-3 last year and reached the Final Four so hopefully we canfind the right button to push and get them to play hard.'
Williams didn't have trouble pointing out reasons for his team's loss.
'I thought we were OK in the second half there, but you have to playdefense and rebound and we didn't do that,' he said.