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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Arizona moves on, but not before a double-overtime thriller that ranks with



Published: Tue, March 25, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Arizona moves on, but not before a double-overtime thriller that ranks with the best in NCAA tournament history.

Salim Stoudamire, quiet most of the intense evening, scored five points in the second overtime as the Wildcats, the West's No. 1 seed, held off ninth-seeded Gonzaga 96-95 Saturday.

Stoudamire's floater in the lane with 2:03 left in the second overtime were the game's final points. Gonzaga had numerous chances to take the lead but failed.

Tony Skinner, whose career-high 25 points included 5-of-11 shooting on 3-pointers, missed an open 3 with four seconds to play for the Zags.

Blake Stepp, who scored 19 of his 25 points after halftime, missed a 5-foot follow-up bank shot just before the buzzer sounded.

Gonzaga nearly pulled off an upset that would have dwarfed anything the Bulldogs did during their exhilarating tournament runs in 1999, 2000 and 2001.

They collapsed to the floor in disappointment and Arizona (27-3) advanced to a regional semifinal matchup against Notre Dame, an upset winner over Illinois on Saturday.

All five Wildcats reached double figures. Jason Gardner scored 22. Channing Frye had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and played the final five minutes and both overtimes with four fouls.

Rick Anderson had 17 points and 11 rebounds, Luke Walton 16 points, nine assists, two blocked shots and three steals. His basket with 4.1 seconds to go forced the second overtime.

But with starters Ronny Turiaf, who scored 16, and Winston Brooks fouled out, Gonzaga's offense finally wilted. The Bulldogs went scoreless the last 2:10 after Skinner's two free throws put them ahead 95-94.

Stoudamire's 3-pointer put Arizona up 94-93 before Skinner's free throws.

Arizona had the ball with 20 seconds to go, but lost it out of bounds. One official signaled possession to the Wildcats, but another overruled him and gave Gonzaga its last shots.

Gardner made three of four free throws in the finally 25.1 seconds of regulation, but missed the fourth. Stepp missed his second consecutive 3-pointer but Skinner tipped it in at the buzzer to tie it at 78 to the delirious delight of the vast majority of the capacity crowd at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.

Arizona built an 87-84 lead on Gardner's two free throws and Anderson's inside basket on a pass from Walton in the first overtime. But Stepp sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie it at 87 with 1:10 to play.

Walton threw the ball away on Arizona's next possession, then Gonzaga coach Mark Few called timeout. Gardner tied up Richard Fox for a jump ball. The possession arrow went to the Bulldogs, and Fox scored on the inbounds play to put Gonzaga up 89-87 with 14.5 seconds to go.

Fox finished with 13 points.

Walton powered the ball inside to tie it at 89, and Stepp's 3-pointer from just inside midcourt was off the mark at the buzzer, to bring on the second overtime.

Trailing 44-41 at the half, the Wildcats scored the first seven points of the second half, four by Frye. The run reached 13-4 on Frye's two free throws that put Arizona ahead 54-48 with 14:17 remaining.

But the team that topped the national rankings for 13 weeks couldn't shake the cool, aggressive Bulldogs.

The Zags went to the round of 16 three of the last four years, and to the regional finals in 1999. They were anything but flustered by the Wildcats, who shot 52 percent in the first half and still found themselves trailing by three at the break.

Skinner, who averaged just under nine points a game in the regular season, scored 15 and Turiaf 12 in the first half.

Gardner had 12 points, including 2-of-2 3-pointers. He went 0-for-17 on 3-pointers in his previous three games.




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