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Cats Have No Answers for Carolina, 92-64
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 01/27/2007
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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TUCSON?-Better depth, better play and more spark took No. 4 North Carolina to a convincing victory over No. 17 Arizona, 92-64, Saturday afternoon in McKale Center.

 

The loss was Arizona’s second-worst in UA coach Lute Olson's tenure and worst at home since he came to Tucson in 1983-84. His worst previous home decision was a 12-point loss to Tennessee on Dec. 23, 1983.

 

Since, only three other teams ?- Stanford, Oregon and UCLA ?- had beaten the Cats by 10 points in McKale, the last of those Stanford in 2004, 82-72. His team lost by 30 points at Oregon, 105-75, in 2001, in his worst loss at any venue with Arizona. 

 

Arizona’s outside game was missing, hitting only one of 23 three-point shots, while its inside game was thwarted by UNC’s tight defense. UA shot 35 percent from the field, its lowest outing of the year. That defense and some carelessness also saw the Wildcats turn the ball over 20 times. The 4 percent shooting from three-point range was not a McKale Center or Arizona-record low, but close to the 0-for-10 mark against Saint Mary's last year.

 

The Tar Heels appeared to do what they wanted and were led by six players in double figures, topped by guard Ty Lawson with 18 points, backed up by 15 from Reyshawn Terry, and 14 apiece from Tyler Hansbrough and Wayne Ellington. Chase Budinger led UA with 16 points, all in the second half, with Mustafa Shakur adding 15. Backup center Jordan Hill had 13 and Ivan Radenovic had 12. Hill had his first career double-double with 10 rebounds.

 

The Cats matched the Tar Heels on the boards, but let the Heels shoot 51 percent from the floor. Carolina hit only 5-for-22 from beyond the arc, but made it to the rim so many times in transition that it didn’t matter. If UA hadn’t gotten itself to the line for 23 free throws the game could have been more lopsided.

 

Arizona dropped to 14-6 while North Carolina improved to 19-2.

 

Trailing by 18 at the break, UA had more fire to open the second half, with Budinger hitting a pair of buckets, Radenovic hitting a jumper and Jawann McClellan making a free throw, but UNC seemed to have an answering play, and the big half-time lead was still 18 after four minutes of play.

 

Budinger, who had been on the bench for 15 minutes and was scoreless in the first half because of two quick fouls, hit another jumper and Radenovic got inside for a layup and a three-point try to cut the lead to 14 points at the media timeout, 15:19. The free throw cut it to 13.

 

But again, North Carolina came up with a move, Danny Green making a three-point play to keep the edge at 16 points, and in transition off a rebound Hansbrough’s layin took the gloss off any UA re-energization ?- underscored a moment later with a Lawson layin on another break. After Carolina made yet another bucket by Green, Olson called timeout at 13:04 with his team basically out of it, 59-37.

 

The rest of the game, before a then-tamed capacity crowd of 14,596 ?- many of whom, including the entire 2,500-seat student section, had arrived early ?- was Arizona trying to play catch-up against a team unwilling to permit it and more than talented enough to deny it.

 

Tyler Hansbrough’s down-the-lane dunk at 8:39 said it all, posting a 69-44 margin and taking the life out of any Arizona comeback try.

 

The pace was frenetic from the start of the first half, and Carolina did a better job of handling the ball in the open court while UA gave up unforced turnovers in the opening minutes.

 

Ellington hit a three-pointer to start the scoring, and Arizona threw the ball out of bounds on its first two possessions, and then UNC’s Lawson hit another three to put UNC up 6-0 two minutes into the game.

 

Arizona seemed a bit out of sync, with Marcus Williams throwing a third ball out of bounds after Mustafa Shakur hit a pair of free throws. The Cats committed their fourth turnover moments later, but on the next time down the floor Jawann McClellan hit a baseline jumper to give UA its first field goal.

 

Williams and McClellan had only four points for Arizona in the game, and six combined rebounds, in two of the Tar Heels' better defensive efforts.

 

At the first media timeout at 15:58, UNC held a 10-4 lead, and Terry hit a bonus shot to give UNC a seven-point lead moments later. Shakur drove the lane to make a bucket but the Tar Heels got a transition basket from Ellington.

 

Better shooting helped UA pull closer for a while.

 

Radenovic drained a three to cut the lead to five, and moments later fed Jordan Hill for a dunk, but UNC answered with a jumper from Deon Thompson. Hill got loose for another dunk a minute later, but Thompson dunked at his end to keep it a five-point lead, 19-14, eight minutes into the half.

 

Hansbrough turned it over on a traveling violation and Hill slammed home another to cut the lead to three, and after two stops, Shakur drove the court to trim it to one, 19-18, as close as UA would be in the game. Lawson did the same thing at the other end in reply.

 

Williams and Alex Stepheson traded buckets, then Shakur drew a foul and made one shot to make it UNC 23-21 at the 9:10 mark, but Lawson got inside at the other end on the break to keep the Heels rolling. Stepheson got inside for a put-back, and Shakur threw the ball away, with North Carolina leading, 27-21, at a 7:55 timeout. The Cats had six turnovers at that point against two by the Tar Heels.

 

UA suffered a drought of two points in five minutes to fall behind, and UNC made that lull hurt with a big run.

 

UA had a turnover and an air ball on its next two possessions. After another exchange, Lawson went to the line and kicked the lead back to seven with a free throw. Shakur answered with a jumper, but Thompson got inside for a layup and Stepheson hit a jumper to help UNC tie its biggest lead at nine, 32-23, with 4:47 left in the half.

 

Quentin Thomas hit a jumper to make it an 11-point lead, 34-23, at the final media timeout inside four minutes. Arizona was 0-for-8 from three-point range and starting to fall behind on the boards, 19-14.

 

Ellington made an open three-pointer, and Arizona turned it over for an eighth time. The Heels put an exclamation on their 18-2 run with a pair of free throws by Hansbrough. Radenovic had a chance to put a little dent in the score, but missed the front end of a one-and-one, and a minute later Lawson got in the paint for a scooper to give UNC a 19-point lead.

 

The Cats had the ball for the final shot, but another turnover led to a fastbreak layup by Lawson and UNC made it a 20-point lead. With time running out, Shakur was fouled and made both free throws to make it 43-25 at the break. UA did not have a field goal in the last five and half minutes of the frame.

 

 

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