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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    By the skin of their teeth

    It might not have been the prettiest win of the season for the Arizona men’s basketball team, but after an up-and-down performance, the Wildcats were happy to break a three-game losing streak.

    The Arizona men’s basketball team was on the verge of losing a fourth straight when they trailed by five with under a minute remaining, but that’s when the Ducks self-destructed.

    Arizona (14-9, 7-5 Pacific 10 Conference) finished the game on a 7-0 run off the strength of two crucial turnovers as the Wildcats beat Oregon (10-14, 4-8) 70-68 in a roller coaster performance.

    Arizona took the final lead after junior Mustafa Shakur drove to the hoop with 9.2 seconds left and was fouled and sent to the line.

    Shakur needed only one for the tie, but knocked down both to put Arizona up 69-68 and said afterward that he was just trying to do what he always does.

    “”I just told myself not to think about it,”” Shakur said. “”I kind of tried to push the guys away from me, they were getting hyped. I was just like telling myself to relax and take my time and do the things I’ve always done at the free throw line.””

    Walters said that he didn’t have any doubt that Shakur would make them both.

    To get to that point, sophomore guard Daniel Dillon stole the ball after Shakur hit two earlier free throws to give Arizona the ball trailing by 3.

    After a baby hook by junior center Kirk Walters cut the lead to one, 68-67, Shakur and freshman forward Marcus Williams trapped senior guard Brandon Lincoln and knocked the ball off his leg to set up Shakur’s heroics.

    “”I came from behind him and actually I hit the ball,”” Shakur said. “”The ball hit off his foot and it bounced around and then I think (junior guard Aaron) Brooks tried to grab it or something and it just went out of bounds. It ricocheted; it was a good double.””

    The Ducks had one last chance to tie, but Brooks was called for traveling after penetrating deep into the lane and attempting to pass to junior forward Ivan Johnson.

    Junior forward Ivan Radenovic hit one of two free throws to seal the win.

    “”Coming back from that margin with that little time really showed that we had some guts on the floor,”” Walters said. “”We really fought hard and got the victory.””

    The Wildcats started the game exactly as Arizona head coach Lute Olson would have wanted, going on a 16-0 run over seven minutes after Oregon knocked down an initial 3-pointer.

    The second half was not nearly as well-run, with the ups and downs continuing. The Wildcats found themselves behind 57-56 with 7:56 left in the half after a triple from sophomore guard Chamberlain Oguchi for Oregon’s first lead since the 3-0 start.

    The Wildcats never gave up, and finally got back in synch with the help of Walters, who finished with a career-high 18 points.

    “”I felt like I played really good,”” Walters said. “”Guys got me some great passes, Ivan got me some lobs and made easier buckets for me.””

    Fresh off the win, the players were already focusing on the tough road ahead before the Pac-10 Tournament that starts with Oregon State tomorrow for an 11:30 a.m. game televised by FSN Arizona.

    “”(Oregon State) beat us at their place and we have to keep winning the way we are,”” Walters said. “”It feels like we got that monkey off our back and now we can start playing and start building this momentum to the Pac-10 Tournament.””

    To continue to build on the winning streak, Olson said the team has to play the entire 40 minutes, something that was lacking again last night.

    “”It’s still not 40,”” Olson said. “”You can’t have lapses when we got them down 16-3; the killer instinct is not there.””

    Even with a lot of progress to make, Olson said it took a lot to come back and win that game.

    “”We still have a way to go with that, but certainly the ability to come back when we’re down five (shows something),”” he said.

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