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Wildcats fail at chance to put Aztecs away early

12/8/2002

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- 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 seven of 21 shots. The rest of the Aztecs
were 25-for-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 a game, scored just nine,
making only one of 10 shots 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 San Diego State, which
trailed 44-35 at halftime.