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Arizona Wildcats turn UK into Mildcats

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Arizona turned the rematch with Kentucky into a letdown and a matchup with Duke.

The top-ranked Wildcats polished off No. 8 Kentucky rather easily in one semifinal of the Maui Invitational on Tuesday in a rematch of last season's national championship game.As a reward for the 89-74 victory, the defending national champions will face No. 3 Duke, an 82-59 winner over Missouri, in tonight's championship game.

Arizona coach Lute Olson didn't get much time to savor the win over Kentucky, which was a far cry from the last two meetings of the Wildcats - the overtime classic last March that kept Kentucky from repeating and the 1994 Maui Invitational title game that Kentucky won on a buzzer-beating tip.

Duke and its heralded freshman class was just 24 hours away.

"I haven't seen anyone play better than Duke right now," Olson said. "That freshman class is great."

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski countered with, "We're young."

In the consolation round of the Maui Invitational, DePaul beat Chaminade 57-55, and George Washington downed Boston College 76-64.

The Arizona-Kentucky rematch was the focus of the eight-team tournament since the pairings were announced a few months ago. The suspense was over early.

Arizona (3-0) broke from a 4-4 tie with a 10-0 run keyed by sophomore point guard Mike Bibby, who capped it with a thunderous dunk.

The lead was 20 in the first half, and Kentucky (2-1) never got closer than 11 points in the second half after trailing 42-28 at half-time.

Bibby finished with 20 points, eight assists and four of Arizona's 11 steals.

Arizona's depth proved a huge asset as its top eight players were back from the championship team. Kentucky had two starters back and a new coach as Tubby Smith replaced Rick Pitino, who left for the Boston Celtics.

Scott Padgett had 15 points for Kentucky, which shot 29 percent from the field in the first half, while Nazr Mohammed had 14 points and 16 rebounds.

Duke (4-0) used its depth to win its second easy game in the tournament. The Blue Devils' balanced attack had seven players scoring 8-16 points.

The Blue Devils led 40-31 at halftime and started the second half with a 13-2 run. Kelly Thames led Missouri (2-1) with 15 points and nine rebounds.

(22) GEORGIA 96, GEORGIA SO. 74: At Athens, Ray Harrison had 24 points to lead the Bulldogs (4-1), who took less than a minute to put together an 11-0 run that gave them a 64-48 lead. Ten players scored for Georgia, which shot 54.4 percent in winning its fourth in a row.

(24) MARYLAND 117, FLA. INTL. 70: At College Park, the Terrapins (3-1) held the Golden Panthers (1-1) to 22 percent shooting (7-of-31) in the first half as they romped to their 55th consecutive non-conference home victory, a streak that began in December 1989.

UTEP 56, NEW MEXICO ST. 54: At Las Cruces, B.J. Wade was 0-for-7, and if he had kept on that way his UTEP Miners would have headed back down Interstate 10 with a loss to New Mexico State.

But with 1:47 left in Tuesday's game, Wade hit his first shot of the night to bring the Miners to within a point of the Aggies, 50-49. Then 30 seconds later he hit his first 3-pointer to give UTEP a 52-50 lead.

Sharif Fajardo scored a game-high 22 points, including two clutch free throws with 26 seconds remaining, to lead the Miners.