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No. 1 Arizona rallies to top Washington

The SportsXchange

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona freshman forward Aaron Gordon was mad at himself at halftime. He had one rebound, and the top-ranked Wildcats were down by two points.

"It's something I pride myself on," Gordon said of rebounding. "In the second half, I had 10 rebounds. My mindset kind of changed."

Gordon's work at the rim, combined with guard Nick Johnson's 24 points, helped Arizona rally past Washington 71-62 at McKale Center on Saturday afternoon.

"Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson were the difference," Arizona coach Sean Miller said.

Gordon had 12 points in the second half to go with 10 rebounds after the break, giving him his fifth double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

"We did challenge him at halftime," Miller said.

"And that's what you hope happens -- you go from one rebound to 10. To me, every basket that he scored and every rebound that he got were all big. He played like a great player in the second half. It was great to see him respond."

Washington (9-6, 1-1 Pac-12) led 35-33 at halftime and held the edge for most of the first 10 minutes of the second half. Gordon changed that with a sequence in which he made a layup, dunked an offensive rebound and threw a bounce pass in transition for a Johnson dunk that gave the Wildcats a 54-51 lead with 9:17 to go.

Arizona (15-0, 2-0) never trailed after that, although the game stayed close throughout.

"When they took the lead, I feel that we got away from the things we were trying to do both offensively and defensively," said Washington coach Lorenzo Romar.

"We had to hit home runs every time we took possession of the ball, and I don't think we accomplished that."

Johnson's drive and dunk put Arizona up 62-58 with 3:20 to go, and Gordon tipped in a basket on UA's next possession for needed breathing room at 64-58.

It was never a one-possession game after that. Forward Perris Blackwell scored with 1:42 to make it 65-60, but that was only the Huskies' second basket since the 12:35 mark.

Arizona hit all six of its free throw attempts in the final 1:12.

"That's what good teams do. They battle through adversity," Johnson said. "We made our run and made shots when it counted."

Johnson, a senior, hit 8 of 18 shots, including a one-handed 360-degree dunk in transition after a steal in the first half. He also had four assists.

Arizona's 15-0 start is its best in modern history and the second-best in school history. The 1931-32 team started 16-0; the school counts two victories each over an alumni all-star team and Dixie Junior College.

Washington was led by senior guard C.J. Wilcox, who scored 20 points. Wilcox, who entered the game second in the Pac-12 in scoring at 20.2 points per game, has scored at least 15 points in 17 consecutive games.

"He looks like an NBA player," Miller said. "He had 20, and we did everything we could to stop him."

Forward Perris Blackwell added 12 points and 12 rebounds for Washington.

Arizona held Washington State to seven first-half points Thursday night, but the Huskies matched that total in their first four possessions.

Washington, coming off a victory at Arizona State, attacked the rim and shot 55.6 percent in the first half (15 of 27). But Arizona, which entered the game ranked fifth nationally in field goal percentage defense (36.2), allowed the Huskies to hit just 30.3 percent (10 of 33) in the second half.

Arizona outrebounded the smaller Huskies by 11 in the second half.

"It's tough going against them with our small lineup," Wilcox said.

"We had to try to keep them off the glass and I think we did a good job at that in the first half. In the second half, they were relentless, and that's one of the main reasons why they are No. 1 in the country."

Notes: This was the only Arizona-Washington meeting of the regular season in the Pac-12's unbalanced schedule. ... Arizona, which should be No. 1 for the fifth consecutive week when the new polls are released Monday, plays at UCLA on Thursday night. ... Cedric Dempsey, a former Arizona athletic director and executive director of the NCAA, attended the game. ... Washington backup F Shawn Kemp Jr. fouled out with 10:37 to go. He had nine points and three rebounds. ... The Huskies dropped to 2-28 when facing No. 1-ranked teams. ... Arizona has trailed at halftime five times, including previous games against Drexel, Duke, UNLV and Michigan.
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