- The Washington Times - Friday, March 25, 2005

ROSEMONT, Ill. - Nothing beats experience like height.

Arizona rode a noticeable size advantage to oust the nation’s oldest lineup from the NCAA tournament, downing Oklahoma State 79-78 last night before 16,957 at Allstate Arena.

The Wildcats (30-6) meet top-seeded Illinois (35-1) in the Chicago Regional final tomorrow.

The average age of Oklahoma State’s top eight players is 23, but the younger, taller Wildcats got the better of the Cowboys in the paint thanks to center Channing Frye (6-foot-11), forward Ivan Radenovic (6-10) and reserve center Kirk Walters (6-10). To make matters worse, the Cowboys (26-7) couldn’t silence the outside shooting of Wildcats guard Salim Stoudamire.

Stoudamire hit a 15-footer with 2.8 seconds remaining to give Arizona the victory. The nation’s leading 3-point shooter finished with 19 points.

Oklahoma State hoped its own outside shooting would be enough to counter Arizona’s offense. The nation’s leading 3-point shooting team managed 10 3s but was virtually cutoff underneath.

Both teams relied on balanced scoring, though Arizona received more help from its bench. Oklahoma State’s reserves didn’t score in the first half.

Guard Hassan Adams also finished with 19 points for Arizona. Guard Joey Graham’s 26 points topped Oklahoma State.

Arizona tried to knock out Oklahoma State early with a 23-13 lead. The Wildcats frontcourt dominated defensively as the Cowboys managed only two baskets underneath in the opening 13 minutes.

However, Oklahoma State’s 3-point shooting thrived with five 3s in the first 11 minutes before the Cowboys suddenly went inside. Oklahoma State scored nine straight points on layups and free throws for a 32-30 lead with 5:01 remaining in the first half.

Arizona resumed working underneath for its points, while Oklahoma State responded inside. It took Adams’ last-second 3-pointer for Arizona to enter halftime ahead 41-38.

Arizona rediscovered its muscle at the start of the second half for a 49-42 lead with four inside baskets. The Cowboys didn’t score in the paint in the first eight minutes but edged ahead 52-51 with 12:24 remaining after a pair of 3-pointers by guard JamesOn Curry.

The strain of scoring from the outside seemed to sap some of Oklahoma State’s defensive energy. The Cowboys didn’t even try to stop some of the Wildcats’ dunks. Instead, both teams worried more about offense, hoping for a short run to open the game.

Instead, the teams simply returned to trading blows. Arizona regained the lead at 57-56 after trailing nearly three minutes on Adams’ open 3-pointer.

The slower pace gradually wore on Oklahoma State, which seemed to be playing catchup instead of breaking past Arizona. The Cowboys had to work harder for their points, and it clearly strained them. Yet Graham scored five points from the outside to give Oklahoma State a 64-62 edge with 7:01.

Oklahoma State stretched its lead to 72-67 with 4:25 remaining, but Arizona rallied again. Stoudamire’s 3-pointer closed Oklahoma’s lead to 76-75 before Frye’s 10-footer put Arizona ahead 77-76 with 59 seconds remaining. Graham followed with a 5-footer for a 78-77 Oklahoma edge with 18.8 seconds left.

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