'Cats will tumble after upset

Monday, December 23, 2002

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU's to-the-buzzer upset of Arizona gave the Wildcats their first loss, assured there will be a new No. 1, and left just 10 unbeaten teams in Division I.

"You always think you can go undefeated," Arizona guard Jason Gardner said after Saturday's 66-65 loss, one the Wildcats almost turned into a dramatic victory with a furious final six minutes. "It would have been nice to go home on top."

The Wildcats (5-1) were No. 1 in the AP preseason Top 25 and in each of the first five polls of the regular season. The loss paved the way for Alabama (8-0) to move up one spot to No. 1 when the new poll is released today. Alabama never has been ranked No. 1.

Tough nonleague schedule

Arizona's nonconference schedule already produced wins over Western Kentucky, Northern Arizona, Saint Louis, San Diego State and Texas and still includes a trip to Kansas.

And even though LSU wasn't considered a major obstacle for Arizona, the Wildcats had lost their only games in Baton Rouge: 92-82 when Shaquille O'Neal put up 29 points and 14 rebounds in 1990-91, and their worst loss under coach Lute Olson, 86-60, three seasons ago.

"The reason we play in tough nonconference places is to learn from it," Olson said. "Hopefully, we learned from it."

Arizona was without senior forward Luke Walton, who was going to miss the game with an injured ankle and decided to stay in Tucson and go to graduation ceremonies.

"Luke would have made a difference, obviously," Olson said. "I would say the biggest thing we miss without him was leadership."

LSU (7-1) beat a No. 1 team for the second time in school history -- the other was in overtime against Kentucky on Feb. 11, 1978 -- by playing great defense.

Offensive stuggles

The Wildcats shot a season-low 33 percent from the field, including 18 percent (4-of-22) from 3-point range. Arizona scored 19 points below its season average.

"I don't think we were mentally prepared," Arizona guard Salim Stoudamire said. "We only played hard the last six minutes of the game. If we had played hard the whole game, that wouldn't have happened."

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