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Thursday November 30, 2000

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Arenas silences critics with breakout game

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By Keith Carmona

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Sophomore guard scores 14 2nd half points to preserve win

Things haven't exactly been going smoothly for sophomore guard Gilbert Arenas so far this season. After his second-half performance against Gonzaga last night, things may be looking up.

He's been in and out of UA head coach Lute Olson's doghouse and is now battling a leg injury, but overcame both to help Arizona against the Bulldogs last night.

Arenas' absence from the starting lineup was because of a sore leg, but he shaked the pain by scoring 14 second-half points.

Arenas can partially thank the Bulldog coaching staff for aiding in his strong second half play.

Arizona ran out to a 49-40 first half lead under the guidance of junior forward Michael Wright, so when Gonzaga came out after the break, their attention was on UA's post play - leaving Arenas wide open on the perimeter.

"They were just leaving me open (in the second half) and doubling in the post, so the posts kicked it out and I shot the three," Arenas said with confidence. "All of the shots I shoot, I feel like they are going in."

His hot hand came despite falling on a right leg that was still hurting from an injury suffered last weekend against Purdue.

Arenas said that the backside of his knee was strained, but that if Arizona was to pull out the win, he would have to sacrifice the pain in his leg.

"After a layup I missed, I just came down on it and I think I just pulled it again," Arenas said. "It was hurting during the game, but I didn't want to lose the game."

Because the Gonzaga defenders were leaving him open and he had a hot hand, Arenas said he asked the coaches to keep him in the game.

The UA coaches obliged and Arenas proceeded to hit several key shots in the waning moments of the game.

Just as Gonzaga had extended its lead to three points with 6:20 remaining in the game, Arenas hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 80.

And while the Bulldogs were still nipping at UA's heels two minutes later, Arenas hit another three-pointer to extend the Wildcat lead to five points

A midrange jumper and a driving lay-up by Arenas sealed the game for the Wildcats, as he had turned a meager first half into a spirited run to lead his team to victory.

"It's hard when one half, I'll go 2-for-11 and then one half, I will be excellent," said Arenas, who was just 2-for-7 before the break. "I just have to put it all in one. But I think it will happen later on in the season. That's how it usually is."

In recovering from a loss to Purdue where the Wildcats seemed to play without its normal vigor, UA head coach Lute Olson appreciated Arenas' clutch shooting.

"Gilbert really stepped up big at a time when we needed to have him get some key shots," he said.

Senior forward Eugene Edgerson applauded Arenas' second-half shooting, but was more impressed with how he played at the opposite end of the court.

"He just came out really focused and played with poise and gave a solid effort defensively," Edgerson said. " As long as Gilbert did what he had to do defensively, he stayed in the game. Gil was looking like a brick wall at times on the defensive side tonight. Which I was certainly pleased with."

Keith Carmona can be reached at