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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Cats turn the tables on Illinois

    Arizonas Mustafa Shakur goes up to the basket over Illinois defender Chester Frazier and another defender during the second half of Arizonas Hall of Fame Challenge game against Illinois, Saturday December 2, 2006 at US Airways Arena in Phoenix. Arizona beat Illinois 84-72.
    Arizona’s Mustafa Shakur goes up to the basket over Illinois defender Chester Frazier and another defender during the second half of Arizona’s Hall of Fame Challenge game against Illinois, Saturday December 2, 2006 at US Airways Arena in Phoenix. Arizona beat Illinois 84-72.

    PHOENIX- Unlike two years ago, it was Illinois who came out as the aggressor in the first half. But this time it would be the No.16 Wildcats who made the second half run and finished off Illinois 84-72 in front of 15, 507 at U.S. Airways Center today.

    The Fighting Illini (7-2) pounded the ball inside to physical big men Warren Carter and Shaun Pruitt who combined for 35 of Illinois’s points and helped open a 35-19 lead with 7:33 left to play in the first half.

    “”I had a little a nervous feeling because they were hot but eventually thought we could get some stops and slowly come back,”” said Marcus Williams who scored 20 points.

    Arizona (5-1) closed the game on a 15-4 run after leading 69-68, and essentially put the game away as Chase Budinger scored a fast break lay-up and was intentionally fouled in the process by Richard McBride, adding two free throws and giving Arizona a 78-70 lead with 1:11 left.

    “”I think we came out pretty soft,”” Budinger said. “”They were bullying us on the boards, their big men were just throwing us all (around). In the second half and end of the first half we started to get aggressive and played tough.””

    With Illinois leading 10-8, Arizona was held without a field goal for 4:12 as Illinois ran off a 12-1 run, with 10 of the 12 points coming from Carter and Pruitt. Eight of the points were either dunks or layups, and Illinois scored 16 points in the paint in the first half. Carter ended with 24 points and 10 rebounds but both he and Pruitt battled foul trouble, each carrying four fouls late in the second half.

    “”I don’t know if (Arizona) was ready for our defense early,”” Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said. “”They adjusted as the game went on and we had our chances even without players because both of the injuries and the foul trouble.””

    Arizona climbed back into the game behind Budinger. The freshman scored nine of his 11 first half points in the last 7:45 when Arizona outscored Illinois 19-8 making the halftime deficit 41-36. Budinger led the Wildcats with 22 points and eight rebounds, earning him the game’s MVP.

    “”When we needed him, he came though big,”” UA head coach Lute Olson said. “”He got some big time reounds.””

    Budinger and Jawann McCllellan went to the offensive glass in the second half looking for loose change and found plenty of it. McClellan grabbed two offensive rebounds in a row with Arizona trailing 51-45, put the second one back into the hoop and earned himself a trip to the free throw line, where he cut the lead to three. Budinger scored on a put back to make it 51-50 and Shakur made a lay-up, giving Arizona its first lead since 6-5. He would add four more points and Radenovic made a bucket to cap the 12-0 run and put the Wildcats up 57-51.

    “”I knew at some point they would go dry if we just kept attacking and playing defense,”” said Shakur who called Illinois the most physical team Arizona has played to date.

    Carter’s jump shot with 3:08 in the first half after an official timeout gave Illinois a 41-30 lead, but McClellan came back with a jump shot, Shakur scored on a hesitation move, and Budinger made two free throws for the last six points of the half.

    Carter scored the first six points of the second half pushing the lead back into double digits at 47-36, but Budinger answered again, stopping the run with a 3-pointer. Williams would add an old-fashioned 3-point play on the next possession and Shakur, who scored 16 points and added eight assists threw in a high arching floater to bring the Wildcats back within three points.

    The Wildcats shot 52 percent from the field, but uncharacteristically struggled shooting 3s, making just 2-of-7 from 3-point range in the first half and 6-of-16 on the afternoon, while missing 11 free throws. Arizona did go to the line 37 times compared with just nine for Illinois.

    “”It was big game, we showed our toughness and we proved that we can play with a anybody, no matter how tough they want to play,”” said McClellan who had extra emotion because the last game his father saw him play was the loss to Illinois in the 2005 Elite Eight.

    “”I came out here to play with a lot of emotion today and we came out here and played as a team,”” said McClellan who scored 13 points.

    “”They hit every shot that they could in the first half and we knew that they had to slow down and to show you how much we’ve grown up, we had great chemistry and nobody got down on one another,”” he added.

    Aside from their struggles at the foul line, Arizona’s bench was spread thin once again and did not factor into the equation much with only Daniel Dillon and Bret Brielmaier seeing playing time. Dillon played five minutes while Brielmaier played 12, but neither player scored.

    Asked if Illinois was the best team Arizona has played thus far, Olson said, “”Yeah, I think so.””

    And 1

    Hall of Fame Members spotted in attendance included Jerry West, Rick Barry, Hubie Brown, Marcus Haynes, Bob Lanier, Jerry Colangelo …Others of note on hand: Arizona’s prize recruit of 2007 Jerryd Bayless, Phoenix Suns all-stars Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, Phoenix Suns guard Raja Bell, former Phoenix Sun Vinny Del Negro, and former NBA journeyman Walter McCarty (sang the national anthem)…Arizona guard J.P. Prince was not in attendance

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