BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ If Arizona plays the way it did in the second half against Utah State, the Wildcats could be going deep into the NCAA tournament.
The Wildcats made a complete turnaround after halftime, quickly erasing a three-point deficit and dominating the Aggies the rest of the way in a 66-53 victory Thursday night in the Chicago Regional.
Arizona (28-6) will face 11th-seeded Alabama-Birmingham in the second round Saturday. The Blazers beat sixth-seeded LSU 82-68.
Arizona apparently learned after losing in the opening round a year ago, when it blew a 14-point lead in the second half and lost to Seton Hall. The Wildcats haven't lost consecutive first-round games since 1992 and '93.
``In the second half we picked it up and put pressure on them and made it more difficult for them to complete passes,'' Arizona coach Lute Olson said.
The Wildcats made it more difficult for the Aggies (24-8) to do much of anything in the second half, especially shoot. Utah State shot 53 percent from the field this season, but was just 8-for-30 (26.7 percent) in the second half Thursday.
Arizona kept turning the misses into easy points, getting the ball inside to Channing Frye as he scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half.
``Our offense definitely comes from our defense,'' Frye said. ``That kind of takes the heart out of other teams and once we get those easy buckets we get confidence in the halfcourt.''
Frye also pulled down 10 rebounds and had five blocks, four of them coming in the second half as the Wildcats ended all hopes of an upset for the Aggies.
``I knew I wasn't going to block them all but I wanted to challenge every shot,'' Frye said.
``We were able to cut their lead a couple of times, but they weren't going to have any of that,'' Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. ``They'd get some turnovers and a steal or some other spectacular play and they'd quickly dispel our efforts.''
Jaycee Carroll led No. 14 seed Utah State with 18 points, going 5-for-10 from 3-point range but didn't have much help. Nate Harris was the only other Aggie to score in double figures with 12 points. Spencer Nelson, who averaged 16.4 points, scored just six after battling the flu.
Arizona, on a run of 21 straight NCAA tournament appearances, trailed 29-26 at halftime after failing to get any tempo going in the first 20 minutes.
But in the second half, the Wildcats again looked like the team that won the Pac-10 regular-season title and averaged nearly 80 points a game. And Arizona did it against the clear crowd favorite.
The Boise State arena is about 300 miles northwest of the Utah State campus, and at least half the arena was filled with Aggie fans, who were loud and boisterous early and stunned into silence late.
The Wildcats tightened their defense to start the second half and frazzled the Aggies, who had just one field goal in the first 7:34 of the second half.
Frye began the 16-2 run with a three-point play. He tied it at 29 with a jump-hook and Stoudamire hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to put Arizona ahead. By the time Adams completed the run with two straight layups, Arizona led 42-31.
Carroll ended Utah State's scoring drought with back-to-back 3-pointers and Nelson added two free throws to make it 42-39, but the Wildcats took off again with eight straight points, a run Rodgers started with a 3.
Arizona was in control the rest of the way and added some emphasis with an alley-oop from Shakur to Adams to make it 56-43.
Utah State led 29-26 at halftime, keeping the Wildcats from getting any rhythm except for one stretch when Arizona went up 20-17 on a 3-pointer by Rodgers and a jumper by Shakur. The Aggies stayed with their methodical halfcourt game, passing the ball around the perimeter until somebody got free for a shot.
It worked time after time, and Utah State used a 9-2 run to go up 28-24 late in the half.