March 9, 2000
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TUCSON, Ariz. - Stanford can beat just about anybody in the country - except Arizona. The ninth-ranked Wildcats used intense pressure defense and a balanced, aggressive offense in the second half and made it a sweep of No. 2 Stanford 86-81 Thursday night.
Richard Jefferson, who broke his right foot in Arizona's 68-65 victory at Stanford Jan. 8 and was scoreless in his first two games back last week, scored 19 points off the bench for the Wildcats, 13 in the second half.
"This feels pretty good," Jefferson said. "I have not scored in I don't know how long. ... It was like a huge burden was lifted."
Michael Wright scored 20 for Arizona (25-6 overall, 14-3 Pac-10). Jason Gardner, named freshman of the year Thursday by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, gave the Cardinal fits with his quickness and finished with 14 points and seven assists. Luke Walton added 15 points, five in the last four minutes, and handed out 12 assists. Gilbert Arenas scored 14.
"These are just tough, competitive kids," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "Luke Walton's effort was unbelievable, and I think it's obvious that Richard Jefferson is back."
David Moseley scored 14 of his team's points in a row in the second half and led a late run that cut Arizona's 15-point lead to 84-81, that after Casey Jacobsen's off-balance 3-pointer with 14 seconds to go.
The Cardinal (25-3, 14-3) couldn't catch the Wildcats to foul them and Wright broke loose for a wide-open stuff with nine seconds to go to clinch Arizona's 29th consecutive homecourt Pac-10 victory.
"Just like last time, we didn't get many looks inside," Stanford coach Mike Montgomery said. "We could not establish an inside game again. You have to be tough-minded in this place. They out-toughed us. They beat us for loose balls and did everything we needed to do."
Jacobsen scored 20 and Mark Madsen had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Stanford.
Arizona, already without 7-foot-1 Loren Woods for four games with a back injury, lost Woods' backup, Justin Wessel, with a sprained right ankle with 8:02 to play. Wessel left with five steals after playing a vital role in cutting off Stanford's inside game.
Arizona's victory left the teams tied for first in the Pac-10 with one game to go. The Wildcats play host to California in the regular-season finale on Saturday, while Stanford is at Arizona State. If Arizona and Stanford finish as Pac-10 co-champions, the Wildcats will get the conference's automatic seed by virtue of the sweep of the Cardinal.
Olson also thinks that a victory over Cal should earn Arizona a No. 1 seed in the West, since the Wildcats would be at least tied with Stanford for the Pac-10 title and will have beaten the Cardinal twice.
Up 39-37 after scoring the last seven points of the first half, Arizona clamped on the pressure. Stanford responded with 10 turnovers in the first nine minutes of the second half.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, went on a 12-3 run punctuated by Walton's two free throws and Arenas' steal and breakaway layup that put Arizona ahead 57-44 with 13:38 to play. Another 6-0 spurt made it 71-56 on Walton's inside basket with 6:23 to go.
Arizona never trailed after scoring the last seven of the first half. Ryan Mendez's 3-pointer, Stanford's seventh 3 of the game, put the Cardinal up 37-32 with 2:05 left in the half.
Gardner, a blur of activity on offense and defense all night, started Arizona's late first-half run with a layup, then drew an offensive foul against Stanford's Michael McDonald. Jefferson sank two free throws to cut Stanford's lead to 37-36 with 1:11 to go and Gardner's 3-pointer put the Wildcats ahead 39-37 with 38 seconds to play until halftime.
Jacobsen scored eight points, including consecutive 3-pointers, in a 10-0 outburst that put Stanford ahead 19-10, but Arizona rallied with a 10-2 spurt, catching the Cardinal at 26-26 on Walton's layup with 7:38 left in the half.
Arizona, which lost last week at Oregon State and Oregon, hasn't lost three regular-season games in a row since 1981-82, Olson's first season with the Wildcats. Stanford had 18 turnovers to Arizona's eight. The Wildcats shot 51 percent from the field against a team that had ranked first nationally in field-goal defense at 38 percent.
The McKale Center crowd, often criticized as too sedate, was as loud as it has been in years. After the final buzzer, the fans rushed the court. That's only happened one other time in Olson's 17 seasons at the school - last year when Arizona beat Stanford.
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer