for this game

Hill, Arizona knock off Gonzaga in inspired effort

Dec 15, 2008 - 3:54 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- With its program clearly going in the opposite direction of high-rising Gonzaga, Arizona suspended its decline for a day.

Jordan Hill scored 22 points and had six rebounds as Arizona captured a much-needed big win with a 69-64 victory over fourth-ranked Gonzaga in the Desert Classic on Sunday.

Nic Wise chipped in a career-high 21 points for the Wildcats (7-2), who improved to 3-0 all-time against the Bulldogs.

"They came out with a lot of energy and played really, really hard for the entire 40 minutes," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "It took us a while to figure it out."

Yet, the perfect mark against Gonzaga is a small respite for Arizona, which is a program on the down slope after the departure of longtime coach Lute Olson due to health reasons.

Making a brief comeback after missing most of last season with personal reasons, Olson finally departed in October, a late decision that cost the program a quality replacement in Kevin O'Neill and a handful of the recruits that it sought.

One of those top prospects was Brandon Jennings, who chose to play professionally in Italy than attend college.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are among the top teams in the nation, displaying rare quality depth and playing as challenging a schedule as any team around.

Already beating then-No. 13 Tennessee in the Old Spice Classic last month, Gonzaga will face a handful of schools from major conferences, including second-ranked Connecticut next Saturday.

However, that extremely competitive schedule can be overwhelming at times, like Sunday when Arizona was playing what was like a home game.

"It has been a long, hard stretch," Few said. "We have not played at home in a month, and it is not like we are playing little sisters of the poor.

"It is hard to get emotionally charged every game. They were playing like a home team, the place got loud, they were flying around."

After a dynamic first half, Arizona established a cushion of 47-38 with a 12-2 run in the opening minutes of the second half. Hill had six points during the spurt.

Yet, Gonzaga (7-1) is too talented to be knocked out with that early, closing within a point at 59-58 with 4:35 to play as Jeremy Pargo capped a 12-5 run.

Still, the Bulldogs could not get over the top, as Pargo missed a 3-pointer with the score tied at 62-62 with 1:17 remaining. Gonzaga's Josh Hetyvelt was whistled for coming over-the-back trying to grab an offensive rebound on the play, sending Hill to the line for two free throws that returned the lead back to the Wildcats for good.

"It was a dead ball, we had no shot at the rebound," Few said of Hetyvelt's foul. "They go down put a guy on the line, make two free throws. We had been getting stops (prior to that)."

After Pargo traveled after driving too far into the lane before attempting to pass back out on Gonzaga's next possession, Hill hit a bank shot on the other end, giving Arizona a 66-62 edge with 39 seconds left.

The Bulldogs quickly shot back, as Matt Bouldin beat the Wildcats down the court in transition for a layup six ticks later.

But Wise converted two free throws with 31 seconds to play, and Pargo had a pass on a baseline drive deflected by Hill before being stolen.

Wise split two more foul shots with eight seconds left to seal the win.

"We knew we were going to get a great game, and certainly we did," Few said. "We battled pretty hard especially in the second half and gave ourselves a chance to win. At the end, we didn't quite make plays and Arizona did."

Chase Budinger added 14 points and seven rebounds for Arizona, which beat a team ranked inside the top four for the first time since the 2001-02 season.

Austin Daye matched a career high with 22 points and Bouldin had 14 for the Bulldogs, who shot 43 percent (24-of-56) from the field in their first loss of the season.

Hetyvelt, Gonzaga's leading scorer at 16.3 points coming in, had just six points on 1-of-6 shooting. He did grab seven rebounds.

Another double-digit scorer, Pargo managed just four points on 2-of-8 from the floor. He also had seven turnovers to go along with his seven assists.