Arizona Looks To Take Out Another Top-10 Foe When It Meets No. 6 Florida
Nov. 9, 2001
Associated Press - A night after stunning the nation's second-ranked team, Arizona looks to dothe same to the sixth.
The lone unranked member of a four-team field, Arizona looks to win theCoaches vs. Cancer Classic on Friday when it meets No. 6 Florida at MadisonSquare Garden.
Jason Gardner, the only returning starter from a team that advanced to thenational finals last season, led Arizona to a shocking 71-67 triumph overNo. 2 Maryland on Thursday in the opening round.
Maryland, ranked behind only Duke to start the season, has been tabbed as atop championship contender because the Terrapins returned four starters fromlast season's Final Four squad.
But it was the team that lost four starters from its Final Four team thatgarnered the attention Thursday.
Gardner scored 23 points, including a pivotal four-point play that gaveArizona the lead for good late in the second half. Luke Walton, the onlyother significant player back from last year's team that lost to Duke in thefinal of the NCAA tournament, added 12 points and 12 rebounds, whilefreshman Salim Stoudamire also tossed in 12 points.
With the departures of Loren Woods, Richard Jefferson, Michael Wright andGilbert Arenas, the Wildcats were thought to use the season as a rebuildingyear. But Arizona's young team, which includes five freshmen and a redshirtfreshman on its 11-man roster, showed it can play with the nation's best.
'All the preseason talk, that's people's opinions,' Gardner said. 'All youcan do is hope the team stays within themselves and believes in themselvesand stays together. All we can do is believe in ourselves.'
Now the Wildcats aim for a repeat performance against another team withnational championship aspirations.
The Gators got 17 points from Justin Hamilton in Thursday's 72-64 win overNo. 16 Temple.
Hamilton, coming off an injury-shortened season, netted 15 points in theopening half - going 6-for-10 from the field. The 6-foot-3 guard played just14 games last season before having it ended by major knee surgery.
'Justin has had great, great focus,' Florida coach Billy Donovan said. 'Theinjury really put things in perspective for him. He realized it's a blessingto be out there.'
Florida countered Temple's matchup zone with several defensive sets,including full-court pressure early in the game. The game plan resulted inTemple's 15 turnovers.
The young Wildcats can expect the same pressure as they try to stun thecollege basketball world on successive nights.