Channing Frye saved the best game of his career for the one that sent his team to the Sweet 16.
The freshman from Phoenix scored 18 points, had 11 rebounds and blocked five shots against a very game Wyoming team as he helped Arizona advance to San Jose next weekend with a 68-60 win.
Frye started off strong in the first half when he blocked four shots before halftime. He became the player he was during the middle of the year and it sure looks like his confidence level is at an all-time high.
Coming into Arizona, the label tagged on Frye was that he was soft. He shed that label throughout most of the season with his play, but against the extremely physical Cowboys (four guys over 240-pounds along their frontline), he quelled any lingering doubts that he is a seasoned and toughened player.
"Coach always tells me to stop being a ham sandwich in practice," Frye joked after the game when asked about his softness. "I know I need to be productive on the boards and be a presence on defense and I think I was today."
Channing made six of his ten shots and six of eight free throws, however it was his four offensive rebounds that helped keep Arizona’s possessions alive. For the game, Arizona shot a dreadful 40.7% and survived an off-game from Jason Gardner (4-13 shooting, 1-7 on threes). That would not have been possible without the outstanding performance from Frye.
In the first half alone, Frye had a follow-up dunk, an 18-foot jumper, a 15-footer from the right wing and another tip-in with his left hand. He made it clear that Wyoming’s bigger and stronger post players weren’t going to intimidate him and that might have been the key to the whole game.
"I’ve said before that Channing can be as good a big man as we’ve ever had at Arizona since I’ve been here," Olson said. "He needs to stay aggressive because when he loses focus and isn’t as aggressive, he’s not half the player that he was today. He had those five blocks today but I’ll bet that he affected a lot more than just those five with his presence."
Other candidates for player of the game included:
*Luke Walton (21 points, nine rebounds including four or five huge floaters down the stretch).
*Salim Stoudamire (seven points on 2-2 shooting; 1-1 threes) –and-
*The always great Jason Gardner, who broke into Arizona’s top ten on the all-time scoring list with his 14 points. Gardner finished with 14 points, five rebounds and eight assists (all in the first half) even though he didn’t have his shot the entire day.