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Cats Shoot Lights Out in Fiesta Opener against Sam Houston State, 87-51
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 12/20/2005
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Out of the regular-season national rankings for the first time in 18 years, the Arizona Wildcats routed Sam Houston State 87-51 on Monday night in the first round of the Fiesta Bowl Classic.

Chris Rodgers hit a career-high five 3-pointers - in eight attempts - and scored 19 points for the Wildcats (6-3), while freshman Marcus Williams added 18, the most in his young career, on 8-for-9 shooting. No Sam Houston player reached double figures. Ryan Bright led the Bearkats (6-3) with eight points.

 

Arizona plays Western Kentucky in the title game on Wednesday night and Sam Houston State meets Central Florida for third place. Western Kentucky beat UCF 73-68 in Monday's first game.

 

Earlier Monday, the Wildcats dropped out of the regular-season rankings for the first time since the start of the 1987-88 season, a span of 312 consecutive polls. They found the failure perplexing because Arizona, then ranked No. 24, won at Utah 73-43 in its only game last week.

 

``Obviously we're disappointed,'' Wildcats coach Lute Olson said before the game. ``We feel like we've played a tough schedule to this point, and we'll just have to work on starting another streak.''

 

The Wildcats, who lost to No. 2 Connecticut and No. 10 Michigan State at the Maui Invitational and at Houston, took out their frustration on the outmatched Bearkats, who committed 29 turnovers, resulting in 33 Arizona points.

 

The Wildcats' quick, tight pressing defense baffled Sam Houston from the start. The Bearkats committed five consecutive turnovers as Arizona took a 15-3 lead on Adams' 15-footer with 16:42 left in the half. The lead reached 22-5 on Rogers' second 3-pointer 12:34 from the break.

 

Williams scored nine consecutive Arizona points, then Mohamed Tangara's inside basket put the Wildcats ahead 33-13. At that point, the Bearkats had more turnovers (14) than points.

 

Adams' stuff after Sam Houston State's 18th turnover gave Arizona a 45-22 lead, its biggest of the half.

 

Rogers scored 13 points, including 3-for-5 on 3-pointers, and Williams was 5-of-6 from the field for 12 points in the first half.

The Wildcats led by as many as 42 points in the second half and made 11 of 22 3-pointers.

 

Notes... Arizona shot a season-best 52 percent from the field and took advantage of 29 Sam Houston State turnovers. UA would have blown away its previous high field goal mark of .508 against Virginia earlier this season, and was shooting 58 percent from the field when Olson emptied his bench at the five-minute mark. But the Cats closed the game making one of their final seven shots, and committed five turnovers in the span.

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