ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A smaller shoe size perhaps, and Saint Louis
takes Arizona to overtime.
Instead, the Wildcats (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP) made a narrow escape with a 68-67 victory
Saturday after Reggie Bryant's potential game-tying shot from the
top of the key with 3.1 seconds to go was ruled a 2-point basket.
Instead, Salim Stoudamire's two free throws with 12 seconds to go
had clinched it.
"I saw his foot on the line," said Andre Iguodala, who led
Arizona with 16 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. "It was a 2.
We just wanted to get the ball inbounds and hold it."
Saint Louis (3-2) wasn't arguing the call, which was confirmed
after a quick replay review. But it was a strange ending with
several Billikens apparently believing the basket was a 3-pointer
and not fouling after the ensuing inbounds pass.
After the game, Bryant said he knew he was on the line. He had
been closely guarded by Mustafa Shakur and stepped forward to
create some space.
"I didn't have time to step back," Bryant said. "I just tried
to get up in the air and draw a foul."
Billikens coach Brad Soderberg also knew it was a 2-pointer.
"I saw it right away and I couldn't communicate it to our guys
that we were down one," he said. "They thought it was tied but he
did step on the line."
Arizona (2-1) was frustrated throughout by Saint Louis'
man-to-man defense and patient attack and trailed by 12 points in
the first half and as many as 11 in the second half. The Wildcats
took their first lead at 49-48 on two free throws by Hassan Adams
with 11:24 to go, part of a 21-4 run.
Chris Rodgers hit two of 3-pointers at the end of the run to
make it 58-50 with 8:02 remaining.
"We feel we didn't play up to our potential in the first
half," Stoudamire said. "We came together and we wanted to fight,
to fight to the end."
But Arizona, which beat Saint Louis 91-58 last year in Tucson,
Ariz., couldn't shake the Billikens. Saint Louis twice cut the gap
to one in the final minute, also getting a three-point play from
Chris Sloan to make it 66-65 with 14 seconds left.
Not bad for a team coming off a nine-point loss at West Virginia
"I was really concerned we'd get blown out of the gym,"
Soderberg said. "The kids executed our game plan really well."
Stoudamire added 19 points, including the first of the two late
free throws which he made despite shooting as a rubber ball thrown
from the stands hit him.
Adams had 14 points and Rodgers added 10 for Arizona, which
might have been looking past this game. Iguodala had five assists
for the Wildcats, who play No. 8 Texas on Tuesday and No. 24
Marquette next Saturday.
"We weren't patient on offense in the first half," Adams said.
"We've got to be patient on both ends. We'll get better after more
Arizona rebounded from a 78-77 loss to Florida on Nov. 28
despite an off-game from Channing Frye, who entered the game
averaging 17.5 points and 10.5 rebounds. Frye was held to seven
points and seven rebounds.
"They did a good job of jamming the middle so Frye could not be
much of a factor," coach Lute Olson said.
Saint Louis, which shot only 29 percent from 3-point range in
its first four games, was 9-for-25 against Arizona. Bryant was
5-for-11 and Josh Fisher and Anthony Drejaj each hit two from long
Fisher and Drejaj each had 12 points and Sloan added 11.
Saint Louis went 6:06 between baskets late in the half and the
lead was shaved to three points, but Drejaj hit a layup with 40
seconds left and then hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Arizona played in St. Louis for the first time since Dec. 11,
1957, when it lost 61-52 to Washington University. That school is
now a member of Division III.