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MARCH MADNESS / NCAA TOURNAMENT

Arizona Shows That There's Nothing to Get Upset About

March 17, 2001|From Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Loren Woods was a self-described "nervous wreck." The long-armed Arizona center didn't want the Wildcats to join the list of favored teams to make an early exit from the NCAA tournament.

"The guys were trying to calm me down. The other guys were relaxed from the beginning. Once I got into the flow of the game, I was fine," Woods said.

And so was No. 2-seeded Arizona in the first round of the Midwest Regional at Kemper Arena. Surviving an early surge by inspired underdog Eastern Illinois, the Wildcats rolled to a 101-76 victory Friday.

"Yesterday we knew there were a lot of teams going down, a lot of upsets out there," said Woods, who scored 17 points and also had nine rebounds and six blocked shots.

"We knew Eastern Illinois was capable of an upset because they have those really good three-point shooters. They had guys who can score on the outside, but we have guys who can score on the outside and the inside."

Gilbert Arenas had 21 points to lead five double-figure scorers for Arizona (24-7).

Arizona, making its 17th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance under Lute Olson, endured a season of turmoil that included the death of the coach's wife, Bobbi, and suspensions for Woods and Richard Jefferson.

Regrouping emotionally, the Wildcats have won 16 of their last 18 entering Sunday's second-round game against Butler, a 79-63 winner over Wake Forest.

Eastern Illinois (21-10) was making its second NCAA tournament appearance. The Panthers took an early five-point lead as Kyle Hill--the nation's No. 3 scorer with a 23.5 average--got 12 of their first 16 points with a variety of jumpers and acrobatic drives.

But Arizona went on a 14-0 run and in the final 13 minutes of the first half outscored Eastern Illinois, 41-17, to take a 22-point halftime lead.

Hill finished with 32 points, while teammate Henry Domercant--the nation's No. 4 scorer with a 22.9 average--had 20 but made only five of 17 shots.

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