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Wednesday November 22, 2000

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UA headed to championship match with win

By Chris Martin

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Wright, Jefferson overpower Dayton 76-59

LAHAINA, Hawaii - If one play can punctuate a game, then sophomore point guard Jason Gardner's alley-oop pass to junior forward Richard Jefferson did just that.

Gardner threw a lob from about a foot behind the left side of the three-point arc to Jefferson, who had taken off from behind the right block.

Jefferson then proceeded to cuff the ball with his right hand about a foot above the rim and somewhat behind his head and flushed it through the hoop as the Arizona bench erupted in celebration.

Jefferson's dunk was the exclamation mark in UA's 76-59 victory against Dayton in the semi-finals of the Maui Invitational.

"That was the explanation point, that was it," Arizona sophomore guard Gilbert Arenas said. "That just silenced the crowd."

With 16:07 on the clock in the second half at the Lahaina Civic Center, Jefferson's dunk seemed to be the decisive blow for the Flyers as it captivated a 15-4 Arizona run that put the game out of reach for Dayton.

Jefferson and Arenas led all scorers with 18 points. Arenas was 8-for-16 from the field and grabbed five rebounds.

"I think I am coming out pretty good," Arenas said. "I just have to come play how I play."

UA junior forward Michael Wright also continued his solid interior play with a game-high 13 rebounds and 18 points.

The first half ended much better than it started for Arizona. Gardner hit a three-point shot as the clock expired to give Arizona a 37-28 lead.

Edgerson paced a first half that had been a back-and-forth battle until UA went on an 11-0 run to distance themselves from the Flyers.

The senior forward had seven points and five rebounds in the opening period and seemed to frustrate Dayton's post players with his hustle and tenacity.

Edgerson would end up with nine points and seven rebounds.

"Gene is a scoring machine if we just get him the ball," UA head coach Lute Olson joked.

One of the keys to the Wildcats' success was the perimeter play of the guards - especially senior Lamont Frazier.

Frazier helped hold Flyers senior guard Tony Stanley to just 13 points on 4-for-13 shooting.

As a whole, Arizona held Dayton to 35.6 percent shooting.

UD's main scoring threats - Stanley and senior forward Yuanta Holland - finished the night a combined 8-for-23 from the field.

"I just get out there and give it my all on (defense) and just try and not let the guy score," Frazier said.

Arizona had gotten off to a slow start as the team forced ill-advised shots and was unable to keep the Flyers off the glass in the first half.

Still, UA's depth was too much for Dayton to handle .The Wildcats got key contributions from all members of their nine-man rotation.

"We are the silent assassins, that is what we call ourselves," Frazier said of the second unit that combined to score 15 points against Dayton. "We get in there, don't say much, and just go out and play. So there will be no slack when we come in."

With the victory, Arizona will meet No. 8 Illinois tonight at 7 in the championship match of the Maui Invitational. The Wildcats are 0-2 in Maui Invitational championships, losing to Kansas in 1993 and Duke in 1997.

"It is going to be a championship game," Arenas said. "Like a NCAA (championship) game, we have to come out and play like it is one of those games."