By Amanda Branam
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Saturday, March 19, 2005
BOISE, Idaho-Another day, another first half struggle and yet another second-half outburst by the UA men’s basketball team.
The third-seeded Wildcats (29-6 overall, 15-3 Pacific 10 Conference) shot 53.8 percent (14-26) after halftime to defeat Alabama-Birmingham (22-11, 10-6 Conference USA) 85-63 in the second round of the NCAA tournament and reach the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five seasons.
Arizona entered the break up nine at 40-31, following a physical opening half of play which saw the 11th-seeded Blazers try to muscle the Wildcats around with their relentless full-court pressure.
But the Blazers struggled from the floor all night, especially from 3-point territory. UAB shot just 26.3 percent (5-19) for the game from long range, hitting just 1-of-11 attempts in the first half. Overall, UAB shot 32.8 (21-64) percent from the floor.
“We had open shots, but they felt good going up when they left our hand,” said UAB senior guard Donell Taylor. “They played pretty good defense on us but when we attack the zone we would find the open guy but the open guy just couldn’t hit the shot.”
UA Senior guard Salim Stoudamire was his usual self, scoring 28 points, going 7-of-7 from the charity stripe, 8-of-16 from the floor and 5-of-11 – 45.4 percent – from 3-point range.
While Arizona’s Channing Frye struggled with his shot and with foul trouble during the game – the senior center scored just six points – teammates such as sophomore wing Hassan Adams picked up the scoring slack.
Adams’gravity-defying dunk with 5:13 to go was simply an exclamation point on a 16-point, 10-rebound effort for the junior forward.
“Hassan is just a freak athlete,” Frye said. “I think when he wants to get the ball he’s one of the best rebounders in the country.”
Sophomore forward Ivan Radenovic played solid as well, but dealt with foul trouble most of the time. He picked up his third foul of the day just 4:14 into the second half. About a minute and a half later, Frye also picked up his third foul. Both ended up with 4 fouls in the game, with neither fouling out. Radenovic finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
Sophomore center Kirk Walters answered the call when Frye was on the bench in foul trouble, scoring 8 points and grabbing 3 rebounds in 14 minutes of play. Walters’ pair of free throws with 3:42 remaining gave the Wildcats a 77-57 lead, their largest of the game at that point. The Wildcats led by 25 points twice in the last 3 minutes.
“There is no question that this was a great team victory for us,” Arizona head coach Lute Olson said. “We had a lot of guys who stepped up. When we were in foul trouble, Kirk Walters gave us 14 quality minutes in the middle, not only scoring some, but the big thing was his shot blocking and challenging the shots.”
The Wildcats finished out the opening half by building their nine-point lead, their largest of the game at that point, after to a 10-3 run over the last 4 minutes. Stoudamire and Radenovic combined to score all 10 points of that Wildcat run. Stoudamire shot 3-6 behind the arc and finished with 15 points in the first half, while Radenovic ended the half with seven points and five rebounds.
The Wildcats held Taylor, the Blazers’ top scorer, to six points in the first half.
Following an Adams free throw to complete the three-point play, the Wildcats tied the score up at 20 after falling behind by as many as five at 7-12 and 11-16. Frye’s dunk with 8:18 remaining put the Wildcats up 22-20.
Both teams got off to a slow start in the first half, with Arizona missing seven of their first nine shots and UAB missing five of their first seven. It took 6 minutes in the game for a team to hit double digits, an Ernest Little free throw to give UAB a 7-10 lead with 14:06 remaining.
The Wildcats advance to the Sweet 16, where they will face either second-seeded Oklahoma State or No. 7-seed Southern Illinois Thursday in Chicago. The Cowboys and Salukis face off Sunday at approximately 12:20 MST time.