TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- The Arizona Wildcats were unranked and
unstoppable against overmatched Sam Houston State on Monday night.
Out of the regular-season national rankings for the first time
in 18 years, the Wildcats took a big lead early and led by as many
as 42 points in an 87-51 rout of the Bearkats in the first round of
the Fiesta Bowl Classic.
Chris Rodgers hit a career-high five 3-pointers -- in eight
attempts -- and scored 19 points for the Wildcats (6-3), while
freshman Marcus Williams added 18, the most in his young career, on
8-for-9 shooting. Point guard Mustafa Shakur had seven assists
without a turnover.
"A lot of the East Coast teams get all the rankings," Rodgers
said. "It's good to be out in a way. It keeps you more motivated
to prove yourself every day."
No Sam Houston player reached double figures. Ryan Bright led
the Bearkats (6-3) with eight points.
Arizona plays Western Kentucky in the title game on Wednesday
night and Sam Houston State meets Central Florida for third place.
Western Kentucky beat UCF 73-68 in Monday's first game.
Earlier Monday, the Wildcats dropped out of the regular-season
rankings for the first time since the start of the 1987-88 season,
a span of 312 consecutive polls. They found the failure perplexing
because Arizona, then ranked No. 24, won at Utah 73-43 in its only
game last week and has a four-game winning streak.
"Right now I think our guys know how good they can be,"
Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "It's not the ranking at the
beginning that counts, but certainly with the game at Utah and this
one, I don't think you should be dropping spots."
The Wildcats, who lost to No. 2 Connecticut and No. 10 Michigan
State at the Maui Invitational and at Houston, took out their
frustration on the outmatched Bearkats, who committed 29 turnovers,
resulting in 33 Arizona points.
"Everybody's confidence is coming around," Arizona's Hassan
Adams said. "This is going to be a good season for us. Everybody
is on the same page. Nobody cares about anything else but winning
The Wildcats' quick, tight pressing defense baffled Sam Houston
from the start. The Bearkats committed five consecutive turnovers
as Arizona took a 15-3 lead on Adams' 15-footer with 16:42 left in
The lead reached 22-5 on Rogers' second 3-pointer 12:34 from the
"They are by far the best team we've played," Bearkats coach
Bob Marlin said. "They had a lot of trouble shooting early in the
season, but they shot well at Utah and they obviously continued to
do that tonight."
Olson said the team has developed "great chemistry" and is
learning how to play together on offense.
"I think we've started to get the point across about shot
selection," he said. "If we share the ball, we're going to get
Williams scored nine consecutive Arizona points, then Mohamed
Tangara's inside basket put the Wildcats ahead 33-13. At that
point, the Bearkats had more turnovers (14) than points.
Adams' stuff after Sam Houston State's 18th turnover gave
Arizona a 45-22 lead, its biggest of the half.
Rogers scored 13 points, including 3-for-5 on 3-pointers, and
William gams was 5-of-6 from the field for 12 points in the first
Arizona made 11-of-22 3-pointers. Their previous high for the
season was six 3s.