Nov. 9, 2001
Associated Press - A night after stunning the nation's second-ranked team, Arizona looks to do the same to the sixth.
The lone unranked member of a four-team field, Arizona looks to win the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Friday when it meets No. 6 Florida at Madison Square Garden.
Jason Gardner, the only returning starter from a team that advanced to the national finals last season, led Arizona to a shocking 71-67 triumph over No. 2 Maryland on Thursday in the opening round.
Maryland, ranked behind only Duke to start the season, has been tabbed as a top championship contender because the Terrapins returned four starters from last season's Final Four squad.
But it was the team that lost four starters from its Final Four team that garnered the attention Thursday.
Gardner scored 23 points, including a pivotal four-point play that gave Arizona the lead for good late in the second half. Luke Walton, the only other significant player back from last year's team that lost to Duke in the final of the NCAA tournament, added 12 points and 12 rebounds, while freshman Salim Stoudamire also tossed in 12 points.
With the departures of Loren Woods, Richard Jefferson, Michael Wright and Gilbert Arenas, the Wildcats were thought to use the season as a rebuilding year. But Arizona's young team, which includes five freshmen and a redshirt freshman on its 11-man roster, showed it can play with the nation's best.
"All the preseason talk, that's people's opinions," Gardner said. "All you can do is hope the team stays within themselves and believes in themselves and stays together. All we can do is believe in ourselves."
Now the Wildcats aim for a repeat performance against another team with national championship aspirations.
The Gators got 17 points from Justin Hamilton in Thursday's 72-64 win over No. 16 Temple.
Hamilton, coming off an injury-shortened season, netted 15 points in the opening half - going 6-for-10 from the field. The 6-foot-3 guard played just 14 games last season before having it ended by major knee surgery.
"Justin has had great, great focus," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "The injury really put things in perspective for him. He realized it's a blessing to be out there."
Florida countered Temple's matchup zone with several defensive sets, including full-court pressure early in the game. The game plan resulted in Temple's 15 turnovers.
The young Wildcats can expect the same pressure as they try to stun the college basketball world on successive nights.