Strong second-half spurs Wildcats to blowout win
For the first few weeks of the young season, UA men's head basketball coach Lute Olson has stressed the importance of a strong second half.
The Wildcats had been outscored in the second halves of all but one of their first five games and it wasn't until last night that Arizona finally executed Olson's message, using a 20-6 run to open the second half and rout Wyoming 98-70 in McKale Center.
"I'm pretty sure you all know how coach Olson comes in at halftime; he stresses the first five minutes of the second half are the most important. We wanted to come out and put a lid on them right away, and we did that," said freshman guard Jawann McClellan, who finished with a career-high 19 points and four boards.
Senior center Channing Frye started the second half off with a 6-2 run all by himself to make the score 51-39 with 17:25 to play. Frye finished the game with 12 points and four rebounds.
The Wildcats continued to pull away in the second half, extending their lead to 71-47 with 11:38 remaining on a pair of free throws by Frye. Frye finished 6-for-6 from the line, while the UA was 23-of-29 - 79.3 percent - from the charity stripe overall.
In the first eight minutes and a half minutes of the second half, the Wildcats scored 26 points to the Cowboys' 10. A fast-break dunk by freshman guard Jesus Verdejo with 4:54 remaining extended the Wildcats' lead to 93-62, the largest of the game.
"It was good to be at home," head coach Lute Olson said. "I thought our second-half defense was outstanding. We didn't give them any good looks at 3s. We took that part of their game away."
In the first half, the Cowboys fired at will from beyond the arc. After starting the game down 12-4, Wyoming kept it close, hitting 6-of-10 from 3-point range in the first half. They went into halftime down just 45-37.
Four of those six first-half treys for Wyoming came off the hands of guard Jay Straight, who was 0-for-10 beyond the arc coming into the game. Straight and the rest of Cowboys failed to make another 3 after halftime.
The Wildcats were able to hold off the Cowboys scoring in the second half by out-rebounding their visitors 20-14. Overall, the Wildcats won the battle on the glass 42-29.
"We had good balance on the boards," Olson said. That's important that we're getting everyone involved on the defensive glass."
It was another game where the Wildcats were able to show their depth.
Thirteen different Wildcats played last night, and six players were on the floor for 20 minutes or more. Eight players contributed at least six points in the game. In addition to Frye and McClellan, senior guard Salim Stoudamire and junior guard Hassan Adams put in double-digit scoring performances with 19 and 16 points, respectively.
Sophomore forward Ivan Radenovich started the game last night, but played just six minutes after sustaining a hip pointer injury. He is not expected to miss any games because of the injury.