No upsets here
No. 2 seed Arizona cruises past Eastern Illinois
Updated: Friday March 16, 2001 6:27 PM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Loren Woods was a self-described "nervous wreck." The long-armed Arizona center didn't want the Wildcats joining the list of favored teams making 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 second-seeded Arizona in the opening round of the Midwest Regional. Surviving an early surge by inspired underdog Eastern Illinois, the talented Wildcats rolled to a 101-76 win 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 3-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 scored 21 points to lead Arizona and Michael Wright also added 17 for the Wildcats (24-7), who had five players in double figures.
When Iowa State was ousted Thursday night by Hampton in the West Regional, it made the Cyclones the fourth No. 2 team since 1991 to lose to a No. 15 in the first round. That included Arizona's loss to Santa Clara in 1993.
But Arenas and his talented teammates weren't about to let it happen again.
Arizona, making its 17th straight 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 games heading into Sunday's second-round meeting with Butler.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 43-10 halftime lead Thursday and beat Wake Forest 79-63 in the first game at Kemper Arena.
It will be the second meeting this season between Arizona and Butler. The Wildcats took a 12-point win on Dec. 28 in the Fiesta Bowl Classic.
"This has been a very difficult year for these guys," Olson said.
"It was a very unstable situation we had through the middle of January. Arizona basketball is all about family and all of a sudden it wasn't the same. The turnaround of this team is when they began letting the game come to them."
That came when Olson returned to the team after his wife's death. The Wildcats subsequently got on a roll that helped them build momentum into the tournament.
Eastern Illinois (21-10), making its second-ever NCAA appearance, rushed out to an early five-point lead before the Wildcats got going.
Kyle Hill, the nation's No. 3 scorer with a 23.5 average, got 12 of Eastern's first 16 points with a variety of jumpers and acrobatic drives to the basket. He finished with 32 points.
Arizona withstood the initial outburst from Hill and ran off 14 straight points, using a pressing defense and its inside power and strength.
Woods' three-point play and three baskets by Eugene Edgerson highlighted the spurt as the Wildcats rolled to a 28-16 lead.
In the final 13 minutes of the first half, Arizona outscored the overmatched Panthers 41-17 to build a 55-33 halftime lead as Woods and Wright had 13 points and five rebounds apiece in the opening half.
"They put the pressure on us and we were careless with the ball and that turned around the game. They got that big lead and we were fighting back," Hill said.
At one point it was so easy for the Wildcats that Arenas had a breakaway layup but at the last second he turned and fed the ball to Woods for a dunk. Woods got a technical for hanging on the rim.
The second half was more of the same as the Wildcats started with an 11-0 run before Eastern could score 41/2 minutes into the half.
Arizona, which shot 59 percent, is now 15-0 this season when scoring at least 80 points.
Eastern's Henry Domercant, who averaged 22.9 as the No. 4 scorer in Division I, scored 20 Friday on 5-of-17 shooting.
"We just didn't take care of the details that you need to beat a team like that," Domercant said.
"We were prepared but we aren't used to seeing that type of athleticism and size," Eastern guard Matt Britton said. "They didn't throw any surprises at us, they just wore us down."