for this game

Budinger, Arizona survive late run to hold off Northern Arizona

Nov 14, 2007 - 6:58 AM TUCSON, Arizona (Ticker) -- Arizona interim coach Kevin O'Neill is blowing a sigh of relief.

Chase Budinger scored 25 points and freshman Jerryd Bayless added 18 as the No. 17 Wildcats held on for a 76-69 victory over Northern Arizona in Tuesday's season opener.

Arizona (1-0) ushered in a brand new season of basketball at the McKale Center minus the presence of coach Lute Olson, who took a leave of absence from the program on November 4 for personal reasons.

With no timetable established for Olson's return, O'Neill got an early scare from the Lumberjacks (1-1) in his home debut on the bench.

"(Winning the game) beats the alternative because we could have lost," O'Neill said. "I would rather learn some lessons from winning games then losing."

Budinger made a pair of free throws and Nic Wise connected from long range as the Wildcats built a comfortable 66-50 cushion at the 9:15 mark of the second half.

However, Northern Arizona refused to quit as it responded with an impressive 13-0 surge, capped by Kyle Landry's three-point play to slice the deficit to 66-63.

"Everybody played well, and we absolutely had a lot of chances," Lumberjacks guard Josh Wilson said. "We had stops on defense, rebounds and out shots were falling towards the end. We just got stuck with a lot of fouls and turnovers."

"We became lazy on the defensive end and they were able to get some easy shots," Budinger said.

But the Wildcats held on to the lead, answering with key shots and free throws from Budinger, Jawann McClellan and Jordan Hill over the final two minutes for the win.

"This was the first game of the year, so we knew anything could happen," Bayless said. "We'll work on things this weekend and get prepared for Saturday's game."

Landry finished with 17 points and eight rebounds and Nathan Geiser also scored 17 for the Lumberjacks, who shot 44 percent (25-of-56) from the field.

"We had a lot of positives from this game," Northern Arizona senior Ryan McCurdy said. "We will continue to work hard from this and move forward. We are just focusing on one game at a time."