Ariz. folds Cards with defense

March 25, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- The first-round rout of Loyola was no surprise. When they pulled away from Virginia for a 13-point win in the second round, no one blinked.

Even when Arizona ran into another resident of the high-rent district last night, it was no contest. The for-real Wildcats shut down third-seeded Louisville, 82-70, in the third round of the West Regional at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

The Wildcats will play Missouri, a 98-88 overtime winner over Syracuse, in tomorrow's West Regional championship. Arizona will be seeking its first berth in the Final Four since 1988.

The West was the only region in which the top four seeds survived the first two rounds, and with Missouri seeded No. 1 and Arizona No. 2, it's still following form.

Upset in the first round the past two years and coming from a Pac-10 Conference that was otherwise blanked in the NCAA tournament and National Invitation Tournament, Arizona (28-5) is living up to its Wildcat, not pussycat, name.

The ingredients were the same for coach Lute Olson. Khalid Reeves, the second-team All-American, had 29 points, five assists and two steals. Damon Stoudamire, his partner in the nation's best backcourt, had 11 points and seven assists, and the Wildcats played the stifling brand of defense that has limited their NCAA opponents to a combined field-goal percentage of .321.

"In answer to your question, yes, we do play defense," said Olson before anyone asked. "We have for a long time. There's no question that the key to this game was our defense."

Olson saw Minnesota collapse on Louisville center Clifford Rozier in the second round last week. The Cardinals (28-6) survived that game on the basis of their perimeter shooting, but when they made one of 12 three-pointers in the first half last night, the attention the Wildcats were giving Rozier grew.

"We didn't make our open threes and Arizona did," Louisville coach Denny Crum said. "If we had made more than one of 12 in the first half, maybe they won't be doubling down on Cliff."

Has an All-American center ever come up as tiny in the NCAAs as Rozier did? For the second straight game he was limited to a single basket, but this time he at least made three free throws. Like Olson said, it was a team effort, but it started with 6-foot-10, 240-pound sophomore Joseph Blair, who badly outplayed Rozier with his 11 points and 10 rebounds.

"We worked on defending Rozier all week," Blair said. "We knew we wanted to double him down low, and we got good help from the guards."

For the record, Louisville shot 37.3 percent from the field, its third-worst figure of the season. The Cardinals got 21 points from Dwayne Morton, but he was 0-for-5 from three-point range after going 5-for-5 against Minnesota.

Arizona led by as many as 15 points in the first half, and the difference in the second half was never smaller than eight.

The Cardinals had a chance to cut the deficit to six with 11 minutes to go after a Wildcats turnover, but Jason Osborne missed an open three-pointer, and Stoudamire came right back with a pull-up jumper in the lane that made it 56-46 with 11:19 left.

The Arizona lead was as big as 16 points with 1:23 to play.

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