Updated Dec 19, 2013 - 10:00 pm
No. 1 Arizona Wildcats top Southern behind Gordon's career day
Arizona (12-0) had no trouble with the Jaguars early on, racing out to a 15-point halftime lead while playing without injured center Kaleb Tarczewski. The second half wasn't quite as smooth and the Wildcats went 22 of 37 on free throws, but it was good enough to get them to 12-0 for the second straight season.
Brandon Ashley had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Arizona.
Southern (3-8) fought back after a miserable first half, but fell in too deep of a hole to make a game of it. Malcolm Miller and Calvin Godfrey had 11 points each for the Jaguars.
Arizona moved to the top of The Associated Press poll last week for the first time since 2003 and immediately faced two difficult tests.
The Wildcats passed both, racing past New Mexico State after stumbling early against the Aggies' quirky defenses, then rallying from an 11-point deficit to beat Michigan on the road for what may be their biggest win of an already impressive season.
Arizona's task over its next two games — the Wildcats face Northern Arizona on Monday — was to avoid complacency and looking ahead to the holiday break and the Pac-12 season.
Southern didn't figure to pose much of a threat to the long, athletic Wildcats.
The Jaguars nearly pulled off a monumental upset in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament, leading No. 1 Gonzaga late before losing to the Zags.
Southern is a much different team this year after losing four seniors and with Godfrey ailing because of an elbow injury.
It went about as expected early.
Even without Tarczewski, who sprained his ankle against Michigan on Saturday, Arizona dominated Southern from the start, building a 12-point by the midpoint of the first half.
The Wildcats kept rolling behind the wheeling and dealing of T.J. McConnell (five assists) and inside game of Gordon, who had eight of his 10 first-half points on layups or dunks.
Southern tried to work inside-out on offense, without much luck; Arizona had an 18-2 advantage in the paint in the first half.
The Jaguars couldn't seem to hit much from anywhere, shooting 7 of 24, including 3 of 11 from the 3-point arc, in the opening 20 minutes.
The Wildcats, on the other hand, had little trouble scoring, hitting 13 of 24 shots from the floor. Had they been a little better without pressure — 6 of 16 on free throws — the lead would have been even more than 34-19 at halftime.
Southern was better offensively to open the second half and chipped the lead down to 10.
The Jaguars had no answer for Gordon.
The freshman phenom used his long arms to reach over defenders for offensive rebounds and his strength to bull past them for putbacks. Gordon added a 3-pointer from the wing and hit three straight free throws after going 0 for 4 in the first half, drawing cheers from the home fans.
That turned out to be the only excitement in the second half as Arizona prevented the Jaguars from getting any closer.
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