Dec 7, 2002
SAN DIEGO - Away from home for the first time this season, the No. 1 Arizona Wildcats actually played a close game.
And they weren't too happy about it.
Will Bynum scored 19 points and Rick Anderson had 17 points and 10 rebounds as Arizona beat San Diego State 89-81 on Saturday night, the Wildcats' narrowest victory margin this season. The Wildcats (4-0) had won their first three games by an average of 36 points.
"We should have won this game a lot easier than we did," Anderson said. "We just got too careless and didn't take care of business."
The Wildcats took their biggest lead, 70-51, on a 3-pointer by Bynum with 10:48 left, one of his four shots from behind the arc.
But the Wildcats blew scoring chances on their next four possessions, including a couple of alley-oop attempts, and coach Lute Olson fumed on the sideline. Meanwhile, the Aztecs (2-3) pulled to 70-57.
"We had the game in hand and on four consecutive plays down the court we tried to get too fancy instead of just making the play," Olson said. "I'm not happy about our ability to put them away when we should have put them away.
"We needed to face this kind of situation."
The Wildcats led by 17 points with six minutes left after a hook shot by Anderson. San Diego State kept it interesting, though, by scoring the next seven points to close to 78-68, including a 3-pointer by highly touted freshman forward Evan Burns, who was making his debut after being declared eligible by the NCAA on Thursday.
The Aztecs couldn't get any closer until the final minute, when Tony Bland, who'd had a horrible game up until then, hit a 3-pointer and a slam dunk. He and Deandre Moore led the Aztecs with 16 points apiece.
Still, Bland made just 7 of 21 shots. The rest of the Aztecs were 25-of-52. Mike Mackell scored 15 before fouling out.
Arizona still handled San Diego State even though the Wildcats' two best players, Luke Walton and Jason Gardner, had off nights. Gardner, who averages 17.3 points per game, scored just nine, making only 1 of 10 from the field. Walton scored seven points, three more than his average for this season but well below the 15.7 points he averaged last season,
This game would have been a matchup of Walton brothers in their hometown, but San Diego State's Chris Walton is redshirting. Their father, Hall of Famer Bill Walton, did color commentary for ESPN.
"They had a great atmosphere here," Luke Walton said. "It was fun to come back here and play in front of my family and friends."
The crowd of 12,414 was the first sellout in six seasons in Cox Arena.
"This is going to be good for the Aztecs," said coach Steve Fisher, who fell to 0-5 against top-ranked teams. "Our involvement tonight with Arizona will be good for us. They have excellent talent and are an expertly coached team. They've been there, done that."
Burns, a McDonald's All-American while at Fairfax High in Los Angeles, scored seven points in his debut. He enrolled at SDSU in September after being denied admission to UCLA.
San Diego State stayed with the Wildcats during a fast-paced stretch midway through the first half, tying it at 21 on a layup by Tommy Johnson with 8:22 left.
But Arizona's press and talent level, combined with poor shooting by the Aztecs, caught up with the San Diego State, which trailed 44-35 at halftime.
By BERNIE WILSON
AP Sports Writer