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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Arizona passes the Memphis test

    Ari Lerner / Arizona Daily Wildcat Arizona guard Mustafa Shakur slams home an uncontested dunk Wednesday evening in the second half of No. 9 Arizona’s 79-71 win over No. 18 Memphis in McKale Center. Shakur filled up the box score with a career-high-tying 23 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists to win game MVP honors.

    No. 9 Arizona 79, No. 18 Memphis 71

    Billed as Arizona’s biggest test yet, the No. 9 Wildcats can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they passed. No. 18 Memphis gave Arizona all it could handle in the first half, but a strong second-half effort helped the Wildcats dispatch the Tigers 79-71 Wednesday night in front of 14,568 in McKale Center.

    As the time on the scoreboard ticked away, Mustafa Shakur paced the halfcourt line, dribbling with his right hand and dangling his left index finger in the air. Then he threw the ball 20 rows into the crowd as time expired. It has been a long time coming for Shakur, who’s seen his share of bad days, but on Wednesday, it was undoubtedly a great day for the senior point guard.

    “”He’s just so different a player this year than he’s been before,”” UA head coach Lute Olson said.

    Shakur took home the Chase Fiesta Bowl MVP trophy by tying his career high with 23 points on 8-of-12 from the field to go along with six rebounds and five assists. He made two of his three 3-point field goals, drove to the basket, making several difficult shots around the rim, and earned six attempts from the charity stripe before throwing a Christmas present to the McKale faithful.

    “”Mustafa played a heck of a game,”” forward Chase Budinger said. “”He was unbelievable out there. He was just a leader out there, and that’s what we need out of him.””

    Budinger and forward Ivan Radenovic each scored 18 points to complement Shakur, including a combined 27 points in the second half.

    After a sluggish and poor shooting first half, when the Wildcats shot 38 percent, Arizona began to click early in the second half. The Wildcats went on a 22-8 run out of the locker room to take a 55-46 lead.

    Budinger started the run with a 3-pointer and scored seven points during the spurt. Meanwhile, Radenovic had two old fashioned 3-point plays in the span of a minute, adding eight points during Arizona’s momentum-changing period.

    “”I think we picked up defensively, and on offense I think we moved a little bit more than we did in the first half,”” Radenovic said. “”We shared the ball a little bit more, and that gave us easy buckets.””

    The Wildcats started the game in a man-to-man defense and played some of their 2-3 zone, but after Memphis found easy lanes to the basket and open 3-pointers, Olson adjusted to the 1-3-1 zone. The change helped force Memphis into 15 percent 3-point shooting in the second half after the Tigers shot 54.5 percent in the first half.

    Guard Jeremy Hunt paced Memphis with 21 points and guard Andre Allen scored 15, but the two were significantly less of a thorn in Arizona’s side after halftime. The Tiger duo, both of whom came off the bench, shot 4-of-15 in the second half following an 8-of-10 first half.

    “”One of our key things at halftime was to try to get the two guys that were hurting us shut down, and we were basically able to do that,”” Olson said.

    Arizona led by as much as 11 at 70-59 with 5:55 left to play. Memphis cut the lead to 75-71 with 2:05 remaining, but Budinger retrieved a loose ball and made two free throws before Shakur added two more foul shots to put the Tigers away.

    The Wildcats were beaten up inside by 6-foot-11, 290-pound forward Kareem Cooper, who scored 11 points, and 6-foot-9, 260-pound forward Joey Dorsey, who scored eight points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

    UA forward Marcus Williams played only 22 minutes because of constant foul trouble and eventually fouled out with 3:20 remaining. But Williams, who had both sprained wrists taped, was effective in the limited amount of time he played. He scored seven points and pulled down six rebounds while having to deal with Memphis’ big men defensively.

    “”I thought he showed a lot of courage to do the job that he did,”” Olson said.

    Williams said his wrists are “”swollen and painful.”” He hurt his right wrist against Houston and his left wrist in practice a couple of days before the Houston game.

    Arizona did not lead for the final 19 minutes of the first half. The Wildcats trailed by as much as nine points at 17-8 and were held without a field goal for 5:36 until Williams scored on a put back. Arizona cut the lead to two points twice at 29-27 and 33-31, the first time on a 5-0 run capped by a Williams layup and the second time on a 4-0 spurt with two McClellan free throws and a mid-range jumper.

    For Shakur, the holidays won’t mean a trip back to his home in Philadelphia, but he will take a drive to Phoenix to watch another Arizona point guard play. Gilbert Arenas, who scored 60 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, will be in town to play the Phoenix Suns.

    Shakur said he didn’t take any inspiration from Arenas’ high-scoring effort because he’d rather make the assist than score the bucket, but on Wednesday the bucket looked awfully big for Shakur.

    “”I had my own game plan set for myself,”” he said. “”Just thinking ahead like what I did last game and what they would try to take away from me, driving, so I just tried to be ready for shots.””

    Memphis head coach John Calipari said Shakur “”controlled the game.”” With Shakur in control, Arizona cruised in the second half, outscoring Memphis 46-33.

    “”It’s a difference between night and day in my opinion as far as how he’s playing,”” Olson said.

    And 1: By Chance

    Chance McGrady, a 6-foot-2 guard on Memphis’ roster is the brother of Tracy McGrady.

    Former NBA players Danny Ainge and B.J. Armstrong were in attendance. Ainge is now the general manager of the Boston Celtics. …

    Former NBA player Rod Strickland is an assistant coordinator of basketball operations at Memphis. …

    Eight members of Olson’s first team, the 1956-57 Mahnomen (Minn.) High School squad were on hand in Section 19. The team went 22-3.

    More Notes:
    Radenovic became the 41st player to reach 1,000 points in his career. He was 12 points shy entering the game.

    Click here for an in-depth analysis of the game

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