March 17, 2007

Loss ends frustrating season

Arizona capped off a frustrating season with a disappointing 72-63 loss to Purdue in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday.

Carl Landry recorded a double-double for the Boilermakers with 21 points and 13 rebounds in a gritty performance.

The Wildcats came out a little bit soft to start the game but tightened up on both ends of the floor as the game progressed.

A trio of turnovers in the game's first 2:30 by Arizona allowed Purdue to jump out to an 8-4 lead, a lead which the Boilermakers would relinquish only once in the entire game.

It didn't help that the UA came out cold from the field and it wasn't until Jawann McClellan came off the bench that the Wildcats got going offensively as he hit a three-pointer at the 14:39 mark to reduce the lead to 8-7.

Purdue pulled away once again after that and it took another McClellan three to bring Arizona back within one at 24-23 with 8:50 left in the half.

Turnovers once again allowed the Boilermakers to open the lead up and as a result Nic Wise made an appearance in lieu of Mustafa Shakur at 6:40 in the first half.

Another McClellan three gave the Wildcats their only lead of the game at 25-24 with 6:03 left to play in the half but Purdue was able to quickly overcome it and go into halftime with a 37-34 lead.

Chris Lutz shot 4-4 from three-point range for Purdue and he and nine Arizona turnovers were the primary causes for the Wildcat deficit.

The second half looked much the same as the first with Purdue playing harder than Arizona from start to finish. The UA offense was completely dormant early on and the Wildcats didn't score a point until the 13:23 mark of the half.

Chase Budinger gave Arizona a bit of an emotional boost on a big dunk at the 11:56 mark but it wasn't until 5:40 left to play that Ivan Radenovic hit a jump shot to bring Arizona within two points of the Boilermakers.

But that was as close as it would get.

Some fans and critics were expecting to see a different Wildcat team than they had in the last two months, but that simply was not the case as Arizona came out flat at the start and again out of halftime. The emotion and sense of urgency was never there and if it was, no one could tell.

Purdue played very tough and extremely physical and the Wildcats just couldn't keep up. The Boilermakers gave their all to every loose ball, every rebound and on every defensive set. Even though it had a significant size advantage, Arizona was out-muscled, out-hustled and outplayed from tip to buzzer.

Evidence of this can be seen in the box score as the Wildcats committed 17 turnovers and allowed Purdue to corral 17 offensive rebounds. Seldom does a team give up that many additional possessions to their opponent and end up winning.

Simply put, this Arizona team made too many mistakes to win against high-level opponents. Whether it was a defensive breakdown, a turnover during a comeback or a second opportunity for the opposition off of an offensive rebound, the Wildcats just opened too many proverbial doors for their opponents.

Furthermore, it has seemed all season that this team also makes these mistakes at the worst possible times. Since the end of the 12-game winning streak, the Wildcats have put themselves in a position to win most of their games but just committed an extremely untimely error right when they were poised to take the lead or tie the game.

Regardless, the season is over and it is also the end of an era at Arizona as Shakur and Radenovic have exhausted their eligibility.

Expectations are always high for Arizona Basketball and fans will be excited once again to see what this talented team can do next year.

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