TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Stanford (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today. No. 2 AP) can beat just about anybody in the country -- except Arizona.
The Wildcats (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) used intense pressure defense and a
balanced, aggressive offense in the second half and made it a sweep
of Stanford 86-81 Thursday night.
Richard Jefferson, who broke his right foot in Arizona's 68-65
victory at Stanford Jan. 8 and was scoreless in his first two games
back last week, scored 19 points off the bench for the Wildcats, 13
in the second half.
"This feels pretty good," Jefferson said. "I have not scored in I don't know how long. ... It was like a huge burden was lifted."
Michael Wright scored 20 for Arizona (25-6 overall, 14-3
Pac-10). Jason Gardner, named freshman of the year Thursday by the
U.S. Basketball Writers Association, gave the Cardinal fits with
his quickness and finished with 14 points and seven assists.
Luke Walton added 15 points, five in the last four minutes, and
handed out 12 assists. Gilbert Arenas scored 14.
"These are just tough, competitive kids," Arizona coach Lute
Olson said. "Luke Walton's effort was unbelievable, and I think
it's obvious that Richard Jefferson is back."
David Moseley scored 14 of his team's points in a row in the
second half and led a late run that cut Arizona's 15-point lead to
84-81, that after Casey Jacobsen's off-balance 3-pointer with 14
seconds to go.
The Cardinal (25-3, 14-3) couldn't catch the Wildcats to foul them and Wright broke loose for a wide-open stuff with nine seconds to go to clinch Arizona's 29th consecutive homecourt Pac-10 victory.
"Just like last time, we didn't get many looks inside,"
Stanford coach Mike Montgomery said. "We could not establish an
inside game again. You have to be tough-minded in this place. They
out-toughed us. They beat us for loose balls and did everything we
needed to do."
Jacobsen scored 20 and Mark Madsen had 15 points and 10 rebounds
Arizona, already without 7-foot-1 Loren Woods for four games
with a back injury, lost Woods' backup, Justin Wessel, with a
sprained right ankle with 8:02 to play. Wessel left with five
steals after playing a vital role in cutting off Stanford's inside
Arizona's victory left the teams tied for first in the Pac-10
with one game to go. The Wildcats play host to California in the
regular-season finale on Saturday, while Stanford is at Arizona
If Arizona and Stanford finish as Pac-10 co-champions, the
Wildcats will get the conference's automatic seed by virtue of the
sweep of the Cardinal.
Olson also thinks that a victory over Cal should earn Arizona a
No. 1 seed in the West, since the Wildcats would be at least tied
with Stanford for the Pac-10 title and will have beaten the
Up 39-37 after scoring the last seven points of the first half,
Arizona clamped on the pressure. Stanford responded with 10
turnovers in the first nine minutes of the second half.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, went on a 12-3 run punctuated by
Walton's two free throws and Arenas' steal and breakaway layup that
put Arizona ahead 57-44 with 13:38 to play.
Another 6-0 spurt made it 71-56 on Walton's inside basket with 6:23 to go.
Arizona never trailed after scoring the last seven of the first half.
Ryan Mendez's 3-pointer, Stanford's seventh 3 of the game, put
the Cardinal up 37-32 with 2:05 left in the half. Gardner, a blur
of activity on offense and defense all night, started Arizona's
late first-half run with a layup, then drew an offensive foul
against Stanford's Michael McDonald.
Jefferson sank two free throws to cut Stanford's lead to 37-36
with 1:11 to go and Gardner's 3-pointer put the Wildcats ahead
39-37 with 38 seconds to play until halftime.
Jacobsen scored eight points, including consecutive 3-pointers,
in a 10-0 outburst that put Stanford ahead 19-10, but Arizona
rallied with a 10-2 spurt, catching the Cardinal at 26-26 on
Walton's layup with 7:38 left in the half.
Arizona, which lost last week at Oregon State and Oregon, hasn't
lost three regular-season games in a row since 1981-82, Olson's
first season with the Wildcats.
Stanford had 18 turnovers to Arizona's eight.
The Wildcats shot 51 percent from the field against a team that
had ranked first nationally in field-goal defense at 38 percent.
The McKale Center crowd, often criticized as too sedate, was as
loud as it has been in years. After the final buzzer, the fans
rushed the court. That's only happened one other time in Olson's 17
seasons at the school -- last year when Arizona beat Stanford.
|Luke Walton makes it tough for Stanford's Casey Jacobsen to pass.||
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