Cats Pull Away, 78-54

Nov. 12, 2008

TUCSON--Jordan Hill's first-half scoring helped give Arizona a sizeable lead that it never gave up in beating Sonoma State, 78-54, to close the Wildcats' exhibition season Wednesday night in McKale Center.

Hill finished with 30 points, 21 in the first half, and led all rebounders with 11. He was nine-for-12 from the floor and 12-for-17 from the line. Nic Wise added 16 and Chase Budinger nine points for the Cats. The point total was an unofficial career high for Hill, who added four assists and three steals.

Sonoma State had 11 players score points, but none in double figures. Mike Nelson, Ashley Arnott, Chad Chambers and Ben Washington had eight apiece. The Seawolves, however, suffered through a .362 shooting night.

Arizona needed the inside game early, with Hill hitting eight of his first eight shots. The rest of the club took a while to heat up, but opened the second half with shots from Chase Budinger and a pair from Wise to open a 54-40 leader five minutes into the frame. A steal by Zane Johnson led to a Garland Junkins' breakaway layup and UA led, 56-40 at 14:30.

Both teams went into a shooting funk for the next four minutes although SSU picked up a layup and a pair of free throws from Chad Chambers to make it 56-45 at the 11:46 mark.

Arizona coach Russ Pennell kept his starters in the action well into the second half, although UA did play 10 deep. UA continued to show some difficulty at the free throw line, making 18 of 28. The Cats also were outrebounded, 37-33, but added 13 steals to their shooting defense to help overcome any sustained runs by Sonoma State.

UA turned the ball over three times in the first five minutes of the game and kept pace with better rebounding, with the score tied at 7-7 by the first media timeout. Budinger had five points for the Cats against five by Sonoma State's Nelson.

Arizona's defense toughed and the Cats went on a 12-2 run over the next three minutes before Arnott drained a three-pointer to keep it relatively close at 19-12. But UA's Hill drove the lane for another bucket and then a no-look pass by Jamelle Horne led to a breakaway Hill dunk for a 23-12 lead, and SSU coach Pat Fuscaldo called time out at 11:30.

Another splurge by the Wildcats took some of the drama out of the game. Horne's three-pointer stretched the lead to 14 points, but Sonoma State answered with a put-back basket by Chambers. Hill replied with a jumper, his 13th point at the time, to make it 27-14.

Hill hung on the rim on a dunk moments later to make it 29-16, giving Arnott a pair of free throws to cut it back to a

 13-point lead, 29-16. But Hill added a pair of free throws a brief moment later and UA was up by 15. The Seawolves fought back, however, with a 9-6 run to keep it within reason at 35-25, while Hill kept putting in points at the free throw line. The Cats blew an opportunity for a final basket in the closing moments of the first half, and took a 38-31 lead into the locker room.

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