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Budinger, Cats come alive after half, beat Cougs

Citizen Staff Writer



Arizona found the pace it liked, and Chase Budinger came alive in the second half as the Wildcats won their third straight game at McKale Center.

Budinger scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half as UA overcame a five-point halftime deficit to beat Washington State 66-56 on Saturday.

“The biggest thing is that we’re stepping up our defense,” Budinger said. “We’ve been very aggressive on trapping on the ball and creating turnovers. We’ve made the other teams play chaotic against us. Most teams don’t like that.”

And all of a sudden UA has some hope of finishing in the top half of the Pacific 10 Conference. Arizona improved to 14-8 overall and 4-5 in the Pac-10. It’s still in sixth place, however.

“I knew I kind of had to stop settling for jump shots,” Budinger said. “I had to get to the rim and get to the free throw line and that’s what I did. I was more aggressive taking the ball to the hoop” after halftime.

Trailing by seven with nearly 14 minutes left in the second half, the Wildcats outscored WSU 24-2 and also kept pressure on the Cougars the rest of the way.

“We were able to get some key steals and some people were able to knock down some key shots,” Budinger said.

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Budinger and Zane Johnson gave the Cats a 56-41 lead with 4:25 left in the game, capping the 24-2 run.

“Zane’s shot was key, and that put us over the top with our momentum,” Budinger said.

After shooting 40 percent in the first half, WSU was just as cold in the second half, hitting only 12 of 29 from the floor.

Budinger, who was 1 for 8 in the opening 20 minutes, finished the game going 5 for 17.

“At halftime we told Chase to keep shooting the shots he was missing,” said UA interim coach Russ Pennell. “He was getting great looks and we knew it was only a matter of time until they fell. When you play Washington State, they are going to allow you to get open looks.”

Arizona trailed 39-32 with 13:43 left, before getting a 3-pointer by guard Nic Wise and jumpers by Budinger and Jordan Hill to take a 40-39 lead with 11:55 left.

The Wildcats never trailed after that, getting two key baskets from Kyle Fogg on drives to the basket to extend their lead.

Fogg, a freshman, gave UA another spark with 15 points for his third consecutive double-digits offensive game.

Hill, Arizona’s big man, had another solid game. He finished with his 14th double-double of the season – 16 points and 16 rebounds.

It didn’t look good for the Wildcats in the first half, which is not unusual against the deliberate Cougars. It’s almost become a routine this season for Arizona – follow a game or two of good play with a clunker.

UA trailed 28-23 at halftime.

“It looked like we were running uphill,” Pennell said. “I don’t know if it was from the energy we used against Washington or what, the length of the season or the 11 (in the morning) start. We don’t like our guys to use any excuses, so we won’t either.”

Budinger, Cats come alive in second half, beat Cougars

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