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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Wildcats blow by Houston

    Arizona guard Mustafa Shakur drives to the hoop in the second half of Sundays game against Houston in McKale Center. Shakur scored a game-high 17 points in the 87-62 win.
    Arizona guard Mustafa Shakur drives to the hoop in the second half of Sunday’s game against Houston in McKale Center. Shakur scored a game-high 17 points in the 87-62 win.

    No. 10 Arizona 87, Houston 62

    The breakneck pace was as advertised. But for the second straight game, No. 10 Arizona held a high-scoring team to significantly below its scoring average.

    Houston (4-3) managed nearly 30 points less than the 91.7 points it averages on the season as Arizona (8-1) ran away with an 87-62 victory in McKale Center Sunday night.

    Arizona’s stringent defense, which has surrendered only 63.3 points per game in its last six games, forced the Cougars into their lowest field goal and 3-point percentage of the season.

    “”We’re just really picking up our defense,”” forward Chase Budinger said. “”Teams that like to shoot 3s and have a high percentage, I think it’s a little different when they play us.””

    All five Arizona starters scored in double-figures led by Mustafa Shakur, who had 17 points to go along with eight assists and six rebounds. Shakur also had the highlight play of the night when he threw a pass off the backboard to forward Marcus Williams, who finished with a slam dunk.

    Arizona started the second half on a 16-7 run to grab a 57-40 lead. Skakur ignited the run with an assist to Williams for a layup, provided a jump shot in the midst of the run, and closed the run by using the glass to connect with Williams, bringing the largest home crowd of the season (14,545) to its feet.

    Shakur had a similar chance in the last game against San Diego State on Dec. 9 but went up for dunk. This time Shakur was prepared for having Williams with him on a breakaway.

    “”I said, ‘Next time I’m going throw it off the glass, so just be ready,'”” Shakur said. “”He followed right behind me, and he just seemed like he knew what I was going to do. Thank God he knew what I was going to do, otherwise I’d look pretty dumb. He finished it off and made it look spectacular.””

    Not only did Shakur play with energy, but the senior point guard showed his emotion after several plays.

    “”We lost this game last year, and he was determined,”” said forward Ivan Radenovic, who had his third double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds. “”He wanted to win real bad and lead this team in the right direction, and that’s really big. He rebounded, he passed the ball well, he scored when he had to, he played great defense.””

    Shakur pumped his fist after making the jump shot during the second-half run, then chest-bumped Williams at halfcourt after Houston called a timeout following the backboard connection.

    “”I play in spurts with my emotion,”” Shakur said. “”I try to feed off my teammates. I’m not one of those guys that’s going to be 40 minutes running around screaming out of my mind. But when the time comes, I try to show a little more emotion.

    “”I hit that jump shot, and it was like a dagger. And then Marcus followed it up. It was just unbelievable, the crowd went crazy. It almost seemed like it was packed.””

    Williams showed his rebounding prowess for the second consecutive game, grabbing 12 rebounds after pulling down 16 against San Diego State. Five of Williams’ rebounds came on the offensive glass in a physical game where the officials let both teams play. Arizona outrebounded Houston 58-26, corralling long caroms from Houston’s 3-point attack gone awry. The Cougars shot 31.2 percent from the field and made 12-of-41 3-point shots.

    “”We knew they were going to shoot deep 3-pointers,”” Radenovic said. “”The thing is they had to be contested, so that’s what we did.””

    For the fourth time this season, all five Arizona starters scored in double figures. Budinger’s curiosity made him look up last year’s Florida stats, where he noticed that the championship-winning squad’s starters all averaged within 3.3 points of each other.

    “”When you have a team like that, that’s great chemistry right there,”” he said.

    Budinger scored 15 points on 7-of-10 from the field and added two blocks.

    Guard Jawann McClellan added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats with his mom in the stands. The Houston native said the game was more emotional for him and that playing well was gratifying.

    Houston came within a point with 7:38 left to play in the first half at 24-23, but Arizona outscored the Cougars 9-0 and held them without a point for 4:55. After not attempting a free throw in the half to that point, the Wildcats attempted eight in the last 4:08 of the first half.

    The Cougars also led 6-4 in the early going, but the Wildcats ran off 10 straight points to take an eight-point lead.

    Arizona’s zone defense, which UA head coach Lute Olson said had to stretched out past the 3-point line because of the Cougars’ propensity for long shots, clamped down on Houston guards Oliver Lafayette and Robert McKiver, the team’s two leading scorers. The duo shot a combined 9-of-29 from the field.

    “”You can’t shoot 30 percent and expect to win, especially against a top 10 team in the country,”” UH guard Lanny Smith said. “”Last year our defense kept us in the game when we shot poorly, and our defense is not where it needs to be. We’re shooting poorly and not playing defense. That’s a bad combination.””

    The Wildcats led 41-33 at halftime, but Olson made adjustments, telling his team to play inside out believing his team was long and quick enough to recover to outside shooters.

    “”There were a couple of things that we saw that we were getting hurt by in the first half,”” Olson said. “”I think in that stretch in the second half when we came out of the locker room the guys did a really good job of covering.””

    Arizona outscored Houston by 17 in the second half, at one point claiming a 31-point lead with under three minutes to play.

    As promised, Olson used more of his bench, playing forward Jordan Hill and guard Daniel Dillon 15 minutes each. Hill scored four points and had six rebounds while Dillon added six points.

    Houston native Fendi Onobun saw his first action in four games, playing four minutes, while fellow Houston native Nic Wise scored three points in nine minutes off the bench.

    Arizona has now won eight straight games for the first time since the 2004-05 season, and the Wildcats have used the same starting lineup in every game.

    “”They really enjoy playing together,”” Olson said. “”They enjoy making the good pass more than the bucket. I said before the year started that I thought this team was going to have great team chemistry because they really enjoy one another.””

    And 1

    With four minutes left, Shakur went up for a breakaway layup and McKiver grabbed his jersey from behind, pulling him down to the ground in a play reminiscent of Saturday’s New York Knicks/Denver Nuggets game, which ended in a brawl. Shakur did not retaliate, and the play was ruled a flagrant foul…For the second time this season, a contestant won the hot shot contest capped with a half -court shot to win a Buick. …Guard J.P. Prince was back on the Wildcats’ bench, but neither he nor Olson were clear about his return to game action.

    “”It’s good to be back with my teammates,”” Prince said. “”I’ve been supporting them even though I’ve been out with my sickness.””

    The Wildcats are slated to be one of four teams to wear special jerseys only in the NCAA Tournament, according to Shakur was discreet about the jerseys because he was not sure if the jersey talks were made in “”confidence.””

    “”I don’t know if we could really talk about it,”” he said. “”You may see something out there that you like.””

    – Lance Madden contributed to this report

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