Arizona Defeats Utah State To Advance To Second Round Of NCAA Tournament

March 17, 2005

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AP Sports Writer

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - If Arizona plays the way it did in the second halfagainst Utah State, the Wildcats could be going deep into the NCAA tournament.

The Wildcats made a complete turnaround after halftime, quickly erasing athree-point deficit and dominating the Aggies the rest of the way in a 66-53win Thursday in the Chicago Regional.

Arizona (28-6) apparently learned after losing in the opening round a yearago, when it blew a 14-point lead in the second half and lost to Seton Hall.The Wildcats haven't lost consecutive first-round games since 1992 and '93.

'In the second half we picked it up and put pressure on them and made itmore difficult for them to complete passes,' Arizona coach Lute Olson said.

The Wildcats made it more difficult for the Aggies (24-8) to do much ofanything in the second half, especially shoot. Utah State shot 53 percent fromthe field this season, but was just 8-for-30 (26.7 percent) in the second halfThursday.

Arizona kept turning the misses into easy points, getting the ball inside toChanning Frye as he scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half.

'Our offense definitely comes from our defense,' Frye said. 'That kind oftakes the heart out of other teams and once we get those easy buckets we getconfidence in the halfcourt.'

Frye also pulled down 10 rebounds and had five blocks, four of them comingin the second half as the Wildcats ended all hopes of an upset for the Aggies.

'I knew I wasn't going to block them all but I wanted to challenge everyshot,' Frye said.

Salim Stoudamire fought through asthma and also scored 17 for the Wildcats.Hassan Adams and Chris Rodgers scored 10 apiece. Mustafa Shakur had sevenassists for Arizona.

'We were able to cut their lead a couple of times, but they weren't goingto have any of that,' Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. 'They'd get someturnovers and a steal or some other spectacular play and they'd quickly dispelour efforts.'

Jaycee Carroll led No. 14 seed Utah State with 18 points, going 5-for-10from 3-point range but didn't have much help. Nate Harris was the only otherAggie to score in double figures with 12 points. Spencer Nelson, who averaged16.4 points, scored just six after battling the flu.

Arizona, on a run of 21 straight NCAA tournament appearances, trailed 29-26at halftime after failing to get any tempo going in the first 20 minutes.

But in the second half, the Wildcats again looked like the team that won thePac-10 regular-season title and averaged nearly 80 points a game. And Arizonadid it against the clear crowd favorite.

The Boise State arena is about 300 miles northwest of the Utah State campus,and at least half the arena was filled with Aggie fans, who were loud andboisterous early and stunned into silence late.

The Wildcats tightened their defense to start the second half and frazzledthe Aggies, who had just one field goal in the first 7:34 of the second half.

Frye began the 16-2 run with a three-point play. He tied it at 29 with ajump-hook and Stoudamire hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to put Arizonaahead. By the time Adams completed the run with two straight layups, Arizonaled 42-31.

Carroll ended Utah State's scoring drought with back-to-back 3-pointers andNelson added two free throws to make it 42-39, but the Wildcats took off againwith eight straight points, a run Rodgers started with a 3.

Arizona was in control the rest of the way and added some emphasis with analley-oop from Shakur to Adams to make it 56-43.

Utah State led 29-26 at halftime, keeping the Wildcats from getting anyrhythm except for one stretch when Arizona went up 20-17 on a 3-pointer byRodgers and a jumper by Shakur. The Aggies stayed with their methodicalhalfcourt game, passing the ball around the perimeter until somebody got freefor a shot.

It worked time after time, and Utah State used a 9-2 run to go up 28-24 latein the half.