March 2, 2006
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Marcus Williams had 17 points and Mustafa Shakur added 13 as Arizona held off Washington State 66-61 Thursday night in McKale Center.
The victory moved Arizona (18-10, 11-6) a step closer to its 22nd straight NCAA tournament appearance, the nation's longest active streak. The Wildcats have won five of their last six games.
Arizona has won 41 of 42 games against Washington State, with the Cougars' lone victory in that span coming a year ago in McKale Center. Needing a victory to solidify their NCAA hopes, the Wildcats wasted little time re-establishing their dominance against the eighth-place Cougars, whom they defeated 70-52 Dec. 29 in Pullman.
Kyle Weaver had 12 points to lead Washington State (11-15, 4-13). This was the Cougars' first game since head coach Dick Bennett announced he would retire at season's end after three seasons at Washington State. Bennett, 62, will pass the reins to his son Tony, who is his top assistant.
In a brief pre-game ceremony, Arizona coach Lute Olson announced that the athletic department would treat Bennett to a weekend at a Tucson-area golf resort.
Arizona hit six of its first seven shots from the floor, limiting opponents to 38.5 percent shooting from the floor - no small achievement against the defense-oriented Cougars, who lead the Pac-10 in field goal defense. Arizona shot 54.2 percent from the floor in the first half.
Arizona used a 9-2 run to open up a 19-9 lead eight minutes into the game.
First Hassan Adams and Shakur hit jump shots. Then, after a dunk by Washington State center Aaron Baynes, Adams fed forward Ivan Radenovic, who was fouled making a lay-up. Radenovic hit the free throw, and Williams made an 18-foot jumper to end the run.
A double-digit lead seemed solid against the Pac-10's worst offensive team. The Cougars average 58.3 points per game and shoot 40.7 percent from the floor, both last in the league. They had scored 37, 41 and 37 points in their three previous games.
Arizona played even better at the defensive end, twice forcing the Cougars to turn the ball over on shot-clock violations and harassing the Cougars into eight first-half turnovers. Washington State shot 32.1 percent from the floor in the first half.
But Washington State wouldn't fold. The Cougars fell behind by 16 points, 45-29, in the first seven minutes of the second half. But then their shooters began finding their range, and the Cougars went on a 13-3 run to pull to within 51-48 with eight minutes to go.
Washington State closed to within 59-57 with three minutes to play, but Williams hit a driving shot as the shot clock wound down to give Arizona a cushion it wouldn't relinquish. The Cougars' upset bid died when they committed two turnovers and an offensive foul in the final two minutes.
Arizona got a scare late in the first half when Adams, their leading scorer, appeared to hurt his left arm while blocking a shot. Adams left the game and was treated by trainers but returned early in the second half.