Arizona Stuns Utah, 84-71
March 20, 2009
MIAMI (AP) -So much for the notion Arizona might not have belonged in the NCAA tournament.
Nic Wise scored 21 of his 29 points in the second half, Chase Budinger added 20 and the 12th-seeded Wildcats - one of the last teams into the field of 65 - knocked off fifth-seeded Utah 84-71 Friday night in the first round of the Midwest Regional.
Jordan Hill added 17 points and 13 rebounds for Arizona (20-13), which has been in the NCAAs 25 years in a row, but hadn't reached the second round since 2006.
Tyler Kepkay scored 19 points for Utah (24-10), which was 8-for-32 from 3-point range and matched a season-high with 20 turnovers.
Arizona sweated out Selection Sunday, its tourney streak in serious jeopardy after finishing a mere 9-9 and tied for fifth in the Pac-10.
Either Cleveland State or Wake Forest will await the Wildcats in the second round Sunday.
Hill easily won the battle of big men against Utah's Luke Nevill, a 7-foot-2 Australian. Nevill had two fouls by the time the game was 3 1/2 minutes old and finished with 12 points and five rebounds, never really being the dominant factor he often was during the Mountain West season.
Kyle Fogg scored 12 for Arizona.
Lawrence Borha finished with 11 points for Utah, which got 10 points and 10 rebounds from Shaun Green.
Arizona led most of the way. The Wildcats' lead was 63-53 with 8:15 remaining, when Wise hit a 3-pointer from the left wing.
And that's when the Utes came rushing back with what became a 9-1 run over the next 3 minutes.
Carlon Brown's layup got Utah within five, and Kepkay followed a minute later with a 3-pointer from the right corner that made it 64-62, causing Arizona coach Russ Pennell to pace his share of the sideline even more quickly.
Alas, he needed not to worry, as his Wildcats would answer with a 10-1 burst.
The Utes went the next 3:47 without a field goal, that drought ending when Nevill hit a jump hook in the lane with 1:28 remaining. But Utah's big man was playing with four fouls, something Arizona happily exploited in the critical final minutes.
Hill went over Nevill for a score with 3:12 left, Budinger drove past Nevill for another layup with 2:29 left, and the Wildcats would hang on.
Utah came into the game averaging 13.6 turnovers per game; the Utes had 14 by halftime, the biggest reason why they quickly found themselves in a sizable hole.
Against Arizona's press, Utah had trouble even clearing the timeline on several occasions, one coming midway through the half when Borha simply threw the ball away to Brendon Lavender. He flipped it across the court to Wise for a wide-open 3, putting the Wildcats up 23-10.
In the game's first 15 minutes, Arizona had 12 points off Utah's turnovers - and that was exactly the margin, 29-17, when Hill scored inside off Utah's 13th giveaway of the half.
Eventually, the Utes settled down.
Utah closed the half on a 12-5 spurt, capped by Shaun Green's 3-pointer from the left wing with just under 5 seconds remaining that drew the Utes within 34-29 at intermission.
But the Wildcats shot 16-for-26 - a sizzling 62 percent - after halftime to keep the Utes at bay.