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Budinger sparks Arizona comeback in win over Illinois

Dec 3, 2006 - 12:56 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- No lead seems to be safe when Arizona and Illinois meet.

Freshman Chase Budinger scored 22 points to lead five starters in double figures and the 16th-ranked Wildcats erased a 16-point deficit to beat the Fighting Illini, 84-72, in the Hall of Fame Challenge.

Arizona gained a bit of payback for its last matchup with Illinois, a 90-89 overtime loss in the 2005 NCAA Tournament in which the Illini erased a 15-point lead in the last four minutes to deny the Wildcats a berth in the Final Four.

"They just shot the lights out early and we were having a hard time hitting anything," Wildcats coach Lute Olson said. "There is no question that our defense turned it around for us. We got some steals and some opportunities there. We got the run, we got some enthusiasm going and then we got in rhythm and took them out of rhythm because of what we were doing defensively."

Arizona (5-1), which trailed by 11 points early in the second half, used a 12-0 run to go ahead, 57-51, with 11:22 to play and never relinquished the lead. Mustafa Shakur had five points in the spurt.

Chester Frazier brought Illinois back by hitting a pair of 3-pointers, the second of which knotted it at 61-61 with 7:18 left.

Jawaan McClellan answered with a shot from the arc for the Wildcats and teammates Ivan Radenovic and Marcus Williams hit 3-pointers to make it 74-70, setting up the game-breaking sequence.

Budinger scored on a layup for a 76-70 advantage with 1:11 to play and Illinois' Rich McBride was whistled for a flagrant foul.

The 6-7 freshman buried both free throws and Radenovic added two more from the stripe on the ensuing possession for an 80-70 margin with 46 seconds left.

"I just went up strong and they got the intentional," said Budinger, who also grabbed eight rebounds. "In the second half, we had to play with the same intensity as we did in the first half. We kind of came out slow in the second half but then we picked it up and started to get stops."

Illinois hit 14 of its first 19 shots from the field and bolted to a 33-17 lead behind 10 points apiece from Warren Carter and Shaun Pruitt. But the Illini went scoreless the final three minutes of the half and also endured a drought of nearly seven minutes after the break.

"We have had trouble starting games and I thought we did a much better job starting the game and set the tempo early," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "I don't know if they were ready for our defense early. They did adjust. We knew if they got going we would be in trouble but our kids did a good job of keeping them out of transition, battled them.

"I don't think the score was indicative of how close the game was."

Williams scored 20 points for Arizona, which didn't get a point from its bench. Shakur added 16 points and Radenovic and McClellan contributed 13 apiece.

"The biggest thing was getting stops," Williams said. "They were shooting the ball phenomenally from the field and doing the basic things. We were making sure our switches and our communication was better getting on shooters. We wanted to make sure we had a balanced attack and got contributions form every one."

Carter scored 24 points to lead Illinois (7-2), which lost despite shooting 52 percent (30-of-58) from the field.

"They just went out on a spurt and we couldn't fight back," Carter said. "They just move so well without the ball and they penetrate well and have so many athletic guys. Each one of their guys can put it on the floor and shoot. They are really skilled."

Arizona also shot 52 percent (26-of-50) and enjoyed a wide disparity at the free-throw line, converting 26-of-37 attempts as opposed to 5-of-9 for Illinois.

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