SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- When Arizona finally got its running game going, the top-seeded Wildcats ran away from 16th-seeded Jackson State in the first round of the West Region.
Michael Wright scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and freshman guard Gilbert Arenas had 16 points and four steals, leading Arizona to a 71-47 victory over the Tigers.
The Pac-10 Conference champion Wildcats, playing without second-leading scorer Loren Woods, who is out with a back injury, used a big second-half run to make sure they did not repeat last year's early exit from the tournament. The Wildcats lost, 61-60, to Oklahoma in the first round in 1999.
Jackson State's big front line kept Arizona from running in the first half and kept the game close, but when the Tigers themselves tried to start running after intermission, it unleashed the Wildcats.
"You can't worry about size advantage," Arenas said. "You just have to go out there and play hard." Arizona (27-6) opened the second half with a 17-9 surge to extend its eight-point halftime lead to 45-29 when Arenas drilled a jumper with 13 1/2 minutes to play.
Jackson State (17-16) called a timeout and when the Tigers came back they ran off eight straight points on baskets by four different players.
Arenas blunted the challenge, though, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the half to start a 9-0 Arizona run that stretched the lead to 54-37. The Wildcats built the lead from there.
"In the initial going we were really tight, we played like the three freshmen we had on the court," Arizona coach Lute Olsen said. "I don't think we were as relaxed as we needed to be." After shooting just 30 percent (8-of-26) from the floor in the first half, Arizona hit at 48 percent (18-of-37), including 5-of-11 from 3-point range, in the second half.
Sophomore forward Richard Jefferson found his stroke in the second half, scoring 10 of his 14 points after the break.
"I don't think I was more aggressive, I just think I let things come to me," Jefferson said. "I think in the first half when I made some turnovers I was trying to be too aggressive and I was trying to do things on my own. In the second half, I got shots I could hit, I let them come to me out of our offense." Vincent Jones scored 12 points and Marino Walker finished with 10 for Jackson State.
"We were a determined defensive team all year including tonight, but we just couldn't stop them from hitting their shots down the line," Walker said. "They are a great team." The Tigers' sloppy ballhandling and errant passes cost them the lead in the first half, which ended with Arizona up, 28-20. They had 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, and most of them were not caused by Arizona's defense.
Arizona will Wisconsin in the second round on Saturday.