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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Escape Artists

    March 3, 2007 XX during the second half of Arizonas game against Stanford, Saturday March 3, 2007 at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif. Arizona beat Stanford 85-80 in overtime.
    Chris Coduto
    March 3, 2007 XX during the second half of Arizona’s game against Stanford, Saturday March 3, 2007 at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif. Arizona beat Stanford 85-80 in overtime.

    STANFORD, Calif. – Whew!

    Arizona can breathe a sigh of relief after 45 minutes of running the gamut of personalities it has exhibited this season.

    In the last game of conference play, the team that showed up to Stanford in the first half was hardly recognizable. In the second half, the Wildcats (20-9, 11-7 Pacific 10 Conference) reverted back to their recent selves and blew a 20-point lead before finishing off the Cardinal (18-11, 10-8) 85-80 in overtime.

    “”We gotta keep people entertained,”” joked forward Ivan Radenovic.

    Radenovic scored a career-high 37 points, pulled down nine rebounds, dished out seven assists and made every play the Wildcats needed to win their 20th game of the season for the 20th consecutive year.

    With the game tied at 78 in overtime, Radenovic made a layup and two free throws to separate Arizona from the Cardinal. After Stanford’s Kenny Brown, who doubled his previous career high with 22 points, made a runner from the right side, Radenovic earned another trip to the free throw line, where he was 11-of-11 and calmly put the game away.

    “”At the end of the game and the end of the overtime, I just had to take the game over in my hands, that’s why I was calling for the ball,”” Radenovic said. “”I didn’t want anybody else to get in trouble. If I was the guy that was gonna get in trouble, that’s gonna lose the game, it’s gonna be me.””

    Said UA head coach Lute Olson, “”One of the best games I’ve ever had one guy play for us.””

    Radenovic was red hot from the start, pouring in 16 points in the first half and closing with six more in overtime. He said it was the best game he’s had in an Arizona uniform and surpassed overall only by a 61-point effort as a 15 year old.

    “”You gotta feed the guy who’s feeling it, you have to keep going to him,”” said forward Marcus Williams, who chipped in with 15 points and three blocks. “”Give it to him until they can stop him, and they couldn’t, so we just had to feed that fire.””

    Radenovic’s two free throws gave Arizona a 71-68 lead, but Brown made a high-arching 3-pointer from the right wing with six seconds left to tie the game for the first tie since 3-3.

    Brown played in place of starting point guard Mitch Johnson, who was one of six Stanford players suffering from food poisoning and did not play in the second half.

    Shakur pushed the ball and found guard Daniel Dillon in the corner, but Dillon missed a deep jumper that would have won the game for Arizona.

    “”I got faked out by ‘Staf when he drew the defense and kicked it back to me, so I wasn’t expecting the shot, but I shot it anyway,”” Dillon said. “”It looked good from where I was.””

    Before guard Mustafa Shakur’s layup with 58 seconds left in the second half, Radenovic scored every Arizona basket for 8:30. As Stanford steadily fought back from a 41-22-halftime deficit, Radenovic had the answer, scoring five straight points when Stanford climbed to within 60-56, then forcing his way to the basket again when the Cardinal pulled to within 65-61.

    “”I wasn’t worried about losing … this is something we’ve been through, me and Ivan, we’ve been there, we’ve been through the ups and downs,”” Shakur said.

    The Cardinal went on a 15-4 run to cut a 49-30 lead to eight and continued to plug away at Arizona’s lead, which got as big as 41-21 with 55 seconds left in the first half.

    “”We don’t plan to drop 20 points that easily,”” Radenovic said. “”We relaxed on the defensive end during most of the second half. They just made big plays and big shots.””

    Stanford forward Brook Lopez scored 21 points but fouled out with 57 seconds left in overtime, and forward Lawrence Hill added 20 for Stanford.

    Arizona’s past five wins – all on the road – have come by six points or less, while all 15 of their previous victories came by a greater margin. The close call gave Arizona its 23rd straight 11-win season in the Pac-10 and earned them a No. 5 seed in next week’s Pac-10 Tournament.

    “”Winning close games is important, stepping up and hitting big free throws is important, and we did that,”” Olson said.

    Of course Olson and the Wildcats would have preferred a different means to the end.

    “”I told them I don’t need that anymore,”” Olson said. “”I told (associate head coach Jim Rosborough) in there (Saturday), we’re too old to put up with this kind of thing.

    “”Ivan said, ‘Yeah, you look a lot older now than you looked before the game.’

    “”I said, ‘Thanks Ivan.'””

    Also, reserves Nic Wise, Fendi Onobun and Mohamed Tangara, who played a combined 88 minutes in conference play before Saturday, brought a psychological insertion of energy lacking the past two months in their combined 26 minutes of action. Wise played 16 minutes himself, in part because reserve guard Jawann McClellan missed the game after injuring his left shoulder in practice Friday.

    The Wildcats jumped out early to an 18-3 lead, made their first 7-of-8 shots and held Stanford to one make in its first seven attempts and 29.6 percent from the field in the first half.

    Their play was reminiscent of the team that once upon a time won 12 straight games.

    After Williams and Stanford center Robin Lopez traded off 3-point plays to start the game, the Wildcats went on a 15-0 run over 3:29, capped by seven straight points from Radenovic.

    Against the twin towers of Brook and Robin Lopez, Arizona managed to come out with an 35-34 rebounding advantage.

    Though Arizona continued to be imperfect in the turnover department, with 13 miscues and six from Shakur, it outscored Stanford 20-9 in points off turnovers. The Wildcats also took advantage inside, despite the Cardinal’s superior size, with a 40-18 margin in paints in the paint.

    The Wildcats now have a date with Oregon on Thursday in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament. Their journey as of late has been quite the ride.

    “”I think we’ve gotten a lot tougher through this whole thing,”” Olson said.

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