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Cats slam Devils after slow start

Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Downing the Devils: Arizona junior center Kirk Walters drops in two of his nine points against ASU last night in Wells Fargo Arena. The Wildcats beat the Sun Devils 80-70 with the help of a career-high five blocks from Walters.
By Shane Bacon
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, January 26, 2006
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Analysis: Defensive pressure helps put away Sun Devils squad

TEMPE - With 2:37 left in the game, the Arizona fans in the rafters started chanting, "This is our house," which again rang true as the Wildcats cruised to a double-digit victory over ASU.

The statement almost has defined the rivalry, with Arizona (13-6, 6-3 Pacific 10 Conference) losing only once in Tempe since 1994-95 against ASU (7-11, 1-8) and defeating the Sun Devils 80-70 last night at Wells Fargo Arena.

The Wildcats started out slow, dropping behind 13-4 before starting to claw their way back into the game.

Arizona shot 38.2 percent from the field in the first half with senior guard Hassan Adams going 5-of-14 from the field to contribute 10 points by intermission.

The only saving grace in the shooting department was junior point guard Mustafa Shakur, who shot 4-of-5 from the field in the first half and ended the game with 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting.

"(This is) probably five or six (of the) best games Mustafa has had for us," Arizona head coach Lute Olson said. "He's in charge, he's doing a good job, he's defending hard and he's making good decisions on the offensive end."

Shakur also tallied four assists and six rebounds in his 36 minutes of play and was the second-leading scorer behind senior Adams, who Olson said was sick Tuesday night and most of yesterday before the game.

"Hassan Adams really came out and gave us a great effort," Olson said. "Hassan was sicker than a dog last night and all day but you certainly wouldn't know that watching him."

The Wildcats spread their scoring well, finishing with four of the five starters in double figures. The only other starter, junior center Kirk Walters, finished with nine points.

Olson was high on Walters, noting the fact that during their first half lull, Walters continued to contest shots when the Sun Devils took it to the hoop.

"His challenging of shots and blocking shots made a big difference because in the first half, when there was some obvious cases when they were going to have a lay-in, he came through and made it difficult for them to get the shots in the lane," Olson said.

Arizona shot lights out in the second half, knocking down 62.5 percent of their shots en route to a 48 percent shooting night.

The big moment of the second half, however, came at 16:15 when both Shakur and Olson received technical fouls during a bizarre scenario that Olson explained after the game.

"Obviously they gave the (technical) to the wrong guy," Olson said. "They gave it to Marcus Williams and that would have been his fourth foul ... I was trying to get the guy's attention that made the call to go check the monitor or something because it was obvious that Marcus was totally out of there."

Senior forward Isaiah Fox said that with the Sun Devils missing the first three of six free throws, it all goes back to a saying the team lives by.

"There's a saying we always say in practice that the ball doesn't lie, and he went up there and missed the first (three) free throws," Fox said.

The Wildcats again had a solid defensive effort, forcing 20 Sun Devil turnovers and allowing just 34.5 percent shooting for the game, a number that was as low as 23 percent a few minutes into the second half.

"I think (defensively) we're getting better everyday because it's just a great team effort, and we're all helping each other out," Shakur said.

The seniors played their last collegiate game at ASU, and Fox said that leaving the rivalry with an away win was awesome.

"It feels so good to come here and win," Fox said. "It's my last time and it's just a really good feeling."

With Arizona now taking a three-game winning streak across the country to face North Carolina, Fox also said that it would be pretty awesome to beat the defending champions on their home court.

"I definitely want to win at Chapel Hill," Fox said with a smile. "Even though I haven't played there, I think it would be a fun place to get a 'W.'"

Arizona will have its chance Saturday in the first meeting since the Wildcats knocked the Tar Heels off on their way to a national championship in 1997.

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