Arizona Stuns Cougars

After Arizona beat No. 6 Washington State 76-64 on Thursday night, Wildcats sophomore Chase Budinger dismissed the notion that his team had pulled off an upset.

``I think we can beat anyone in the country right now,'' said Budinger, who scored 22 points.

Freshman point guard Jerryd Bayless led Arizona with 23 points as the Wildcats blew open a close game in the second half.

The Wildcats buried the Cougars beneath a barrage of 3-pointers. Arizona went 12-of-21 (57 percent) from beyond the arc, a season high for 3-pointers. Budinger hit four while Bayless and Nic Wise both had three.

``We've had our share of ups and downs, but I'm proud of this team,'' Arizona interim coach Kevin O'Neill said. ``Any time you beat a top 10 team, it means you're getting better.''

Arizona knocked off a member of the top 10 for the second time this season, the first coming in a 78-67 victory over then-No. 9 Texas A&M on Dec. 2, also in McKale Center.

Given the history between Arizona and Washington State, it's hard to classify the Wildcats' victory as a shock. They had, after all, beaten the Cougars 38 straight times from 1986-2005.

But Arizona's longtime dominance in the series ended when the Cougars swept both games last season.

The Cougars came to the desert in a three-way tie for first in the conference while Arizona was mired in a three-way tie for sixth.

On Thursday night, the teams reverted to their more traditional forms. Arizona took command with a 10-2 run midway through the second half. After Jordan Hill blocked Kyle Weaver's shot into the seats, Wise hit a pull-up 3 to give the Wildcats a 47-38 lead. Arizona blew the game open with a 9-0 run that made it 68-50 with 6 minutes to go.

``We were still in the game at halftime, but the floodgates opened,'' Washington State coach Tony Bennett said. ``It's not like the kids are lazy or they didn't try hard. We got exploited.''

The Wildcats (13-6, 3-3) handed Washington State its first double-digit loss since a 14-point defeat at Utah on Dec. 2, 2005.

Weaver and Aron Baynes scored 15 points each for the Cougars (16-2, 4-2). Leading scorer Derrick Low was 2-of-9 from the field and didn't have a basket until 2:38 remained.

``The few times Derrick did get clean looks, they weren't even close,'' Bennett said. ``I've not seen him be that off in a while.''

Bayless helped contain the senior guard.

``Jerryd had a lock-down performance,'' O'Neill said.

After opening the season with 14 straight victories, the Cougars have lost two of four, with the other loss coming at No. 8 UCLA on Jan. 12.

Washington State came in with the nation's top scoring defense, allowing 52.5 points per game. But Arizona shot 55 percent from the field. And when the Wildcats weren't knocking down shots, they feasted at the free throw line, going 20-of-23 (87 percent).

``We got thoroughly outplayed,'' Bennett said. ``We just could not make them earn anything. They played a heck of a game.''

The Wildcats came into the game looking to re-establish the homecourt advantage they once enjoyed in McKale Center. Arizona had split its first two Pac-10 home games and had lost five conference games the last two seasons. That's how many the Wildcats lost between 1997 and 2003.

A towel-waving crowd of 14,598 helped inspire the Wildcats, who responded with emotion.

``They had those towels waving around, and we're really fired up,'' Hill said. ``We got fired up with them tonight.''

The Wildcats hope to carry the momentum into Saturday afternoon's game against Washington.

The Cougars, meanwhile, will try to regroup before visiting No. 24 Arizona State on Saturday. The Sun Devils are much better than last season, when they almost knocked off the Cougars in Tempe.

``We have to go up there and steal one,'' Bennett said.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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