Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, March 18 2005
BOISE, IDAHO - It was a tale of two halves for the UA men's basketball team Thursday afternoon in what amounted to a road game in Boise, Idaho at the Taco Bell Arena.
After struggling to score and being down three points at the halftime break, the No.3 seeded Wildcats (28-6) raised their defensive intensity and came away with a 66-53 win over the No.14 seed Utah State Aggies (24-8).
"We picked up the defense and we put pressure on them," head coach Lute Olson said.
Seniors Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire led the Arizona charge with 17 points a piece including 25 of their 34 combined points in the second half. Frye who did not attempt a free throw in the first half went to the line nine times in the second half, converting seven of those times.
"In the first half, I don't think I was aggressive enough or determined enough to get myself open," Frye said. "I took it upon myself to create an inside presence."
To open the second half, Arizona went on a 16-2 run, using three-quarter court pressure defense to take the Aggies out of their deliberate offensive sets.
"I think we took them out of their comfort zone," sophomore point guard Mustafa Shakur said. "In the first half we allowed them to get really get into a groove and in the second half we took them out of their comfort zone and made them make tough decisions under pressure."
After suffering a first round loss in last year's first round of the NCAA, Frye was determined not to let things spiral downward again. He began the second half with five straight points, including a three point play to tie the game at 29. Stoudamire followed Frye's run with a three pointer after which Frye added two free throws. Stoudamire added another bucket with a mid range jumper before junior forward Hassan Adams capped the run with two straight layups, making the score 42-31.
At halftime, Olson told the team not to shoot the ball from the perimeter unless Frye touched the ball first, and the game plan seemed to work as the Wildcats shot 54.5 percent in the second half while taking five less shots.
"Channing did need more touches and (needed to) be more aggressive, and I think we did a good job of getting him more involved," Shakur said.
Arizona also went to the line 17 times after the break compared with just one attempt in the first half.
The Aggies were able to control the tempo in the first half shooting 48 percent, but the increased pressure from Arizona forced them into just eight made field goals in the second half. Jaycee Carroll led Utah State with 17 points but shot just 5-of-13 from the floor. The Aggies leading scorer Spencer Nelson made just one of his seven field goal attempts while battling foul trouble and a respiratory ailment.
"At halftime of the game, I thought we had the tempo up where we needed to have it," Utah State head coach Stew Morrill said. "We had a chance to compete in the game, and we played pretty well. Second half, Arizona overwhelmed us with their athleticism and their quickness."
The Wildcats received help from the bench as well, getting minutes from four players including 25 minutes from freshman guard Jawann McClellan who scored seven points and pulled down five rebounds including an offensive rebound and putback late in the second half when he came from out of nowhere on the baseline to give the Wildcats a 14 point lead at 60-46.
"Jawann right now, he plays like a starter with the amount of time he's getting," Olson said.
Junior guard Chris Rodgers who did not score a point in the Wildcats' Pacific 10 Conference Championship-loss to Washington last week came in and gave the Wildcats a lift not only on the defensive end, which is his forte, but also offensively with 10 points.
"Chris's rhythm on his shot has been really good this week so I think he's back on offense," Olson said.
Rodgers missed his first shot of the game but made his next three and was tied for the lead in points with five in the first half. "You have to be ready to make things happen out there," Rodgers said. "You can mess up but if you have the chance to be out there, you can make up for it."
Sophomore forward Kirk Walters played only five minutes but gave Frye key rest minutes in the first half before Frye was able to break out.
"When Kirk came in he was aggressive and that's what we've been looking for out of him," Olson said.
The Taco Bell Arena in Boise was supposed to be a neutral site but the crowd was a partisan one, with thousands of Aggie fans traveling from Logan, Utah to be at the game.
"They took all the tickets," Frye joked. "If we had Utah State last year, we would have gotten beat by 60 or 70."