No. 14 Arizona Nips Valparaiso, 74-70

Dec 30, 2001

AP Sports Writer

TUCSON, Ariz. - Jason Gardner brought Arizona from behind with a latefour-point play, and the No. 14 Wildcats avoided an upset by beating Valparaiso74-70 Sunday to win the Bank One Fiesta Bowl Classic on Sunday.

The Crusaders' Milo Stovall fouled Gardner as his 21-foot shot dropped with1:28 left, and the free throw gave the Wildcats to a 71-68 lead.

Stovall missed from the perimeter with 16 seconds to go, and Arizona's RickAnderson got the rebound. Raitis Grafs fouled out trying to get the ball fromAnderson, who made one free throw.

Antonio Falu made a layup with 3.5 seconds to go, and Gardner made twotechnical free throws when Valparaiso called timeout without having any left.

Gardner had 19 points, six assists and five steals, and Anderson, playing 37minutes because of the absence of injured Luke Walton, had 18 points and 11rebounds.

Salim Stoudamire had 13 points and Will Bynum 10 for the Wildcats (8-3).

Falu had a career-high 22 points for the Crusaders (10-4), and Grafs,Stovall and Stalin Ortiz had 11 each.

Arizona lost for the first time in its 17-year-old holiday tournament lastyear, when coach Lute Olson was at the bedside of his cancer-stricken wifeBobbi, who died Jan. 1.

This year, the missing part was Walton, one of only three upperclassmen onthe roster. He strained his right Achilles' tendon Friday night during a 94-71win over Pepperdine.

Anderson took up the slack, scoring 12 points in the second half andrecording a career-high in rebounds, including five on the offensive glass.

The Crusaders went ahead, 33-31, 29 seconds into the second half on two freethrows by Stovall, and no more than five points separated the teams the rest ofthe way.

There were five more lead changes, with Valparaiso taking its last lead at66-65 on two free throws by Grafs with 3:45 to go.

Ortiz made a baseline runner for a 68-65 margin with 2:46 to go, but thatwas the Crusaders last basket until Falu's in the final seconds.

Falu missed a 3-pointer with 1:55 to play, and Stoudamire got the reboundthat led to Gardner's four-point play.

Arizona led from its first basket, a 3-pointer by Gardner 55 seconds in, andhad a seemingly safe lead at 22-10 with 10:44 left in the first half after an11-0 run in which Anderson had a dunk and putback.

But the Crusaders finished with a 21-9 run to tie it at halftime.

Reserve Stalin Ortiz made a 3-pointer and field goal on consecutivepossessions, and Jared Nuness shot Valparaiso into a 29-28 lead with two freethrows and a 3-pointer.

His long shot dropped with 2:32 to go, Gardner answered with a 3-pointer 11seconds later, and Antti Nikkila tied it at 31 with a layup.

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