Dec 30, 2001
By MEL REISNER
AP Sports Writer
TUCSON, Ariz. - Jason Gardner brought Arizona from behind with a late four-point play, and the No. 14 Wildcats avoided an upset by beating Valparaiso 74-70 Sunday to win the Bank One Fiesta Bowl Classic on Sunday.
The Crusaders' Milo Stovall fouled Gardner as his 21-foot shot dropped with 1:28 left, and the free throw gave the Wildcats to a 71-68 lead.
Stovall missed from the perimeter with 16 seconds to go, and Arizona's Rick Anderson got the rebound. Raitis Grafs fouled out trying to get the ball from Anderson, who made one free throw.
Antonio Falu made a layup with 3.5 seconds to go, and Gardner made two technical free throws when Valparaiso called timeout without having any left.
Gardner had 19 points, six assists and five steals, and Anderson, playing 37 minutes because of the absence of injured Luke Walton, had 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Falu had a career-high 22 points for the Crusaders (10-4), and Grafs, Stovall and Stalin Ortiz had 11 each.
Arizona lost for the first time in its 17-year-old holiday tournament last year, when coach Lute Olson was at the bedside of his cancer-stricken wife Bobbi, who died Jan. 1.
This year, the missing part was Walton, one of only three upperclassmen on the roster. He strained his right Achilles' tendon Friday night during a 94-71 win over Pepperdine.
Anderson took up the slack, scoring 12 points in the second half and recording a career-high in rebounds, including five on the offensive glass.
The Crusaders went ahead, 33-31, 29 seconds into the second half on two free throws by Stovall, and no more than five points separated the teams the rest of the way.
There were five more lead changes, with Valparaiso taking its last lead at 66-65 on two free throws by Grafs with 3:45 to go.
Ortiz made a baseline runner for a 68-65 margin with 2:46 to go, but that was the Crusaders last basket until Falu's in the final seconds.
Falu missed a 3-pointer with 1:55 to play, and Stoudamire got the rebound that led to Gardner's four-point play.
Arizona led from its first basket, a 3-pointer by Gardner 55 seconds in, and had a seemingly safe lead at 22-10 with 10:44 left in the first half after an 11-0 run in which Anderson had a dunk and putback.
But the Crusaders finished with a 21-9 run to tie it at halftime.
Reserve Stalin Ortiz made a 3-pointer and field goal on consecutive possessions, and Jared Nuness shot Valparaiso into a 29-28 lead with two free throws and a 3-pointer.
His long shot dropped with 2:32 to go, Gardner answered with a 3-pointer 11 seconds later, and Antti Nikkila tied it at 31 with a layup.