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Cats in command: UA atop Pac-10 race

CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA senior guard Salim Stoudamire slides past Washington's Tre Simmons during Arizona's matchup against No. 10 Washington in McKale Center last night.
By Amanda Branam
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, January 28, 2005
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Stoudamire breaks 20 again to spark comeback

The Arizona men's basketball team did more than just avenge three losses to Washington from a season ago.

Last night, the Wildcats gained full possession of first place in the Pacific 10 Conference with their 91-82 win in McKale Center.

The final margin of nine points was the largest lead the No. 11 Wildcats (17-3 overall, 7-1 Pacific-10) had in the game.

After trailing most of the first half, Arizona and Washington battled back and forth in the second frame before UA senior center Channing Frye tied the game at 73 with a pair of free throws and quickly followed with a jumper to give the Wildcats the lead for good with 5:52 remaining.

Frye had a rough first half, scoring just four points - all on free throws - but finished the game with 18 points and a perfect 8-of-8 from the line.

Overall, the Wildcats were 38-of-40 from the charity stripe.

"Personally, my teammates kept positive with me, kept encouraging me and the student section. There's no way I was going to let us lose this game. When it came down to it, I just wanted to make buckets for the team," he said.

After being down 40-47 at the half, the Wildcats opened the second half with a 13-4 run to take a 55-51 lead about five minutes in.

The Huskies (16-3, 6-2) were never too far behind, scoring 13 3-pointers, four of which came from senior guard Tre Simmons. The Huskies outrebounded the Wildcats 38-29 overall, and 19-6 on the offensive glass, which made up for Washington's poor outside shooting. The Huskies took 70 shots, making just 38 percent.

"When you outscore a team that good 51-35 in the second half, you had to have played awfully well," UA head coach Lute Olson said.

Senior guard Salim Stoudamire had another good shooting night, scoring 25 points, going 9-for-9 from the free-throw line and 2-of-4 from 3-point range.

Sophomore guard Mustafa Shakur, who had not scored in double digits since playing at California Jan. 6, scored 19 points and added six assists.

"We went into halftime and said, 'We're going to win this, let's just stick with it,'" Shakur said. "Big games come and we have big-time players. We are able to step up now and get things done."

The Huskies led the majority of the first half, taking a 19-18 lead with 11:24 remaining and never losing the lead again until four minutes into the second half. UW scored seven treys to Arizona's one in the opening half.

After the game, Frye talked about the crowd noise and how he felt it was more of a factor tonight than in any game he could remember.

"I've been to some pretty loud games, but this has probably been the loudest. This is the most joyful, fun game I have ever been to."

On Saturday, the Wildcats face Washington State (8-9, 3-5) at noon in McKale Center. Frye said he expects the Cougars to slow the game down, and the Wildcats must be prepared for that.

"I don't want anyone to sleep on them. They will slow the game down to their pace, and they have got some big wins on the road," he said. "We kind of played that slowed down game against Marquette and we were successful. And now, we know what we need to do to win that type of game."

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