Citizen Staff Writer
ARIZONA 52, UNLV 49
LAS VEGAS – Arizona’s “Comeback Kids” are at it again.
Wednesday night, the Wildcats came from behind – for the third time in four games – to beat host Nevada Las Vegas 52-49 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
No. 19 Arizona (8-2) has won five straight games.
“I don’t want to be the ‘Comeback Kids,’ ” said UA senior Jawann McClellan. “We knew they’d come out and give us a game. . . . I’ll take the name (Comeback Kids) but I don’t want it. It takes a lot of energy to come back. We can’t do that against elite teams, and I do think UNLV is a top 35 team. We just can’t continue to do that.”
Once again, the win didn’t come without added drama. Up by three at 52-49, UA threw the ball away with about 10 seconds left, giving UNLV a chance to tie it. But the Rebels’ Curtis Terry missed a 3-pointer.
UA’s Jordan Hill got the rebound and was fouled with 3.2 seconds left. But he missed his free throw, giving UNLV another attempt at a tie.
But again Terry missed badly on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“I am very proud of our guys that we hung in there,” interim coach Kevin O’Neill said. “We found a way to win this game.”
Arizona rode the outstanding play of Hill, a sophomore, who had 16 points and a career-high 19 rebounds.
“Our shots weren’t falling like they should be,” Hill said. “We stayed with them with defense.”
As for his dominating performance – there were spots in the second half UA went to him exclusively – Hill said, “it was an advantage for me because I was bigger than their big men, so I just stepped up. I played hard.
“It feels good. It feels better when you win. If it wasn’t my night and we still got the win, I’d be happy.”
UA struggled in what was the team’s lowest score in a win since it beat Marquette 48-43 in 2004.
The Cats trailed by eight with 12:01 left in the first half.
Guard Nic Wise had a chance to give UA its first lead of the game with 3:08 left when he stole the ball at halfcourt and went in for a layup and was fouled. He missed the free throw.
With 1:18 left, Wise gave UA its first lead at 49-48 when he hit one of two free throw attempts after being fouled while driving to the basket.
UNLV missed on its next possession with 52 seconds left and UA got the rebound.
Before taking the lead, the closest Arizona got was a tie at 38 with seconds left in the first half.
Hill kept UA in the game, grabbing rebounds and hitting unorthodox shots. One came on an awkward tip with 9:15 left to keep UA close at 43-42. By then, he had 14 points and 16 boards.
The second half was much like the first half as UA couldn’t hit shots and gain momentum on the Rebels. It didn’t help that UA’s big two – Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger – were cold from the floor. They were each 2 for 10.
What was worse, UA’s other option of scoring on the perimeter, Wise, was also off. As a team, UA shot just 34.6 percent from the floor – a season low.
“This was a tough one for us tonight on offense,” Bayless said. “Nobody could really knock them down, but we made some big ones at the end, though. I guess it was one of those days.”
Budinger was disappointed he scored just six points.
“But a win is a win. We’ll take it,” Budinger said.
What does it say about Arizona that its top two players can have poor nights and still win?
“That we’re a team – I guess,” Bayless said. “Anyone can step up at anytime.”
BOX SCORE, 7C
San Diego State (9-2) at No. 19 Arizona (8-2)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Radio: 1290 AM, 107.5 FM
• Box score, Page 8C
THE HIGHS AND LOWS
Player of the game: Arizona’s Jordan Hill, who had 16 points and 19 rebounds. It was the fifth double-double of his career and second of the season.
Cheers: To Arizona, for once again finding a way to win the game after being down in the first half.
Jeers: Each team was horrible from the floor. Both shot below 40 percent. UNLV shot 31 percent; UA finished at 34.6 percent.
Turning point: In the final nine minutes, UA outscored UNLV 10-4, allowing the Rebels but one basket in the final four minutes.
4 – Shots made by Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger combined.
19 – Rebounds by Jordan Hill. It was a career-high.
34.6 – Percentage UA shot from the floor, a season low.