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Bull’s-eye Wise

Citizen Staff Writer
The Bounce



Earlier in the week, Arizona’s Chase Budinger said Nic Wise was stepping up big time, especially in late-game situations.

Wise proved his teammate right Thursday night in an 83-76 win over USC, hitting a 3-pointer with 43.8 seconds left to give UA a 79-76 lead at McKale Center.

“I’m just getting more and more confident each game,” Wise said. “It’s like taking it back to high school where you have to step up at the end.

“Everybody is looking for you to do that. I’m doing the same thing now that I did back then.”

The UA point guard later came up with a fumbled ball by USC’s Daniel Hackett with 30.6 seconds left. And he got a key rebound at the end.

UA (17-8, 7-5 Pac-10) won its sixth straight game and hosts No. 11 UCLA on Saturday. The Bruins fell to Arizona State 74-67 in Tempe on Thursday.

“I don’t know what I am,” said UA interim coach Russ Pennell, speaking of his emotions. “I just see our team getting better every day. We’re playing with a lot of confidence. The guys are enjoying playing together.”

Budinger finished with 25 points.

Wise ended with 27 points, two shy of the career high he established two weeks ago.

All of a sudden, he’s Big Game Wise.

“Nic is fearless,” Pennell said. “In order to be a clutch player, you’ve got to be able to take big shots regardless of the outcome. Nic is not one to be intimidated. . . . if he doesn’t make the play, so be it. He’ll move on. He feels like he can make big plays in big moments and he’s proving that time and time again.”

It didn’t stop with that shot.

USC had a last chance to tie it when Wise, while attempting to rush the ball up the court, stepped on the sideline with 28.6 seconds left. On USC’s attempt to tie the game, Dwight Lewis missed a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left. Lewis had gone 6 for 8 from behind the arc to that point.

USC coach Tim Floyd said it was a designed play for Lewis, and Pennell figured Lewis would take the shot.

“I thought Jordan (Hill) came in and made a great play of jumping out there and changing the arc of the shot,” Pennell said. “It’s very difficult to shoot over someone 6-10 who is flying at you like that.”

Wise got the rebound and was fouled. He hit two free throws with 17.3 seconds left to give UA a comfortable 81-76 lead and the eventual win.

UA started out unbelievably hot, scoring on its first 10 possessions. But the Cats had only two baskets in an eight-minute stretch to end the half.

Arizona had a 33-15 lead with 9:32 left in the first half, then slowly saw it slip away.

After going 11 for 13 from the floor to start the game, UA finished the half going 2 for 9.

“You know that’s a little fool’s gold because you can’t keep that torrid pace,” Pennell said of UA’s early success. “Sometimes you can kind of get this false security and I’m not saying that we did. It almost came too easy. I know this is the Pac-10 and you’re not going to blow anybody out.”

He was right. USC had its problems, too, not being able to take control throughout the game.

“Arizona is playing exceptionally well right now,” Floyd said. “They are shooting the ball with range and distance and they are getting out (and running) a little better at home.”

The Trojans, however, stayed in the game and eventually took over because of 3-point accuracy, something it hasn’t been known for this season. USC entered the game last in the Pac-10 from the 3-point distance, hitting just 31.4 percent of its shots. The Trojans went 10 for 17 from behind the arc.

Lewis couldn’t be stopped – again – by the Wildcats. Lewis, who had 21 points in USC’s 65-64 win last month, had 21 points on Thursday.

USC went on a 16-0 run from the end of the first half to the beginning of the second half to take some control of the game. USC had a 48-41 lead before Arizona recovered to go on a 16-3 run in the second half and take a 66-61 lead

But Lewis and Daniel Hackett sparked the Trojans. After a Daniel Gibson basket, Lewis scored to make it 70-66.

UA tied it on four consecutive points by Wise.

Hackett matched that with four consecutive points before Budinger hit two free throws and Wise got a steal and layup to make it 74-74 with 3:20 left.

In a game that was as intense as ever – even for a typically charged game in the USC-UA series – Arizona cooled off as the half progressed but it was clearly UA’s most inspired and aggressive first half of the Pac-10 conference season.

Arizona led 41-38 at halftime in a game that was totally different than the first meeting between the two schools. Last month, it was a drag-it-out, low-scoring game. Thursday it went at a breakneck pace. USC closed with an 11-2 run.

The Trojans’ troubles started early – and it wasn’t as if they weren’t trying. The Trojans hit their first four shots five minutes into the game.

But they had three turnovers and Arizona didn’t miss on its first five attempts.

“We thought they were very, very aggressive early in the game and got us on our heels,” Floyd said about the Wildcats.

> ASU downs UCLA; UA women fall. 4C

> Shots don’t fall for Trojans at end. 5C


No. 11 UCLA (19-5, 8-3) at Arizona (17-8, 7-5)

When: 11 a.m. Saturday,

TV: CBS. Radio: 1290 AM, 107.5 FM


With the game tied at 76, Arizona point guard Nic Wise hits a 3-pointer from left of the key with 43.8 seconds left to give the Wildcats the lead for good.


12 3-pointers by UA. That tied a season high.

8 for 11 Same offensive stat lines on shots from the floor for UA’S Chase Budinger and Nic Wise.

19 Free throws made by UA in 21 attempts

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