PHOENIX (AP) -- The last time Arizona and Illinois played, the
Fighting Illini staged a late comeback that stunned the Wildcats
and denied them a berth in the 2005 Final Four.
The 16th-ranked Wildcats are still haunted by that heartbreaker,
but may have eased the pain with their 84-72 victory over Illinois
in the Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge on Saturday.
The Wildcats (5-1) felt they made a statement after rallying
from a 16-point deficit to win a game played at tournament
"Illinois is a big-time team," said game MVP Chase Budinger,
who led Arizona with 22 points and eight rebounds. "They always
have a great program. It really tested us to see where we were as a
team and as a program."
In the 2005 Chicago Region final, the Wildcats appeared headed
for their fifth Final Four. Arizona led by 15 with 4 minutes to
play and eight points with 1:15 remaining in regulation. But
top-seeded Illinois rallied to force overtime and pulled out a
All five Illinois starters from that team are now in the NBA.
Arizona also has a different look, although Wildcat starters
Mustafa Shakur, Ivan Radenovic and Jawaan McClellan all played
significant roles two years ago.
This game was a reversal of that showdown. This time, the Illini
jumped ahead 35-19 midway through the first half, then withered in
the face of the Wildcats' explosive offense, which ignited the
crowd at the U.S. Airways Center 90 miles from Arizona's Tucson
"I think everyone got their money's worth," said Arizona coach
Lute Olson, whose team has won five straight after a season-opening
loss at Virginia.
Illinois was without forward Brian Randle and guard Jamar Smith,
who are injured. The Fighting Illini also fought through foul
trouble on a day they were whistled for 28 fouls -- 16 more than
Illini coach Bruce Weber was so incensed at the officials that
he drew a technical foul with 7:50 to go in the game. But the
momentum had already shifted.
"We had our chances, even without players because of the
injuries and the foul trouble," Weber said.
Warren Carter scored 24 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, and
Shaun Pruitt and Chester Frazier each added 11 points for the
Fighting Illini (7-2), who have lost two straight games, both to
"Each day we're going to be a work in progress, going to get
better every day in practice and every day in games," said Carter,
a senior who posted his third career double-double.
The Illini went on a 17-3 run to take a 22-9 lead with 12:50 to
go in the first half. Illinois attacked Arizona where it's most
vulnerable -- in the middle. The 6-foot-9 Carter and 6-10 Pruitt
combined to hit 10 of 16 shots from the field in the first half.
Arizona was hurt once again by some indifferent defense for long
stretches early in the game. Illinois shot 55 percent from the
floor in the first half and 50.8 percent for the game.
"They started zone; we shredded that," Weber said. "They went
to man. We shredded that. Then they picked up their intensity."
Illinois led by as many as 16 before Arizona woke up.
Radenovic's bucket with 6:35 to go launched a 15-6 run that left
Arizona trailing 41-36 at intermission.
Carter opened the second half on a personal 6-0 run to give
Illinois a 47-36 lead, but went to the bench with his fourth
personal foul with 17:04 to go.
Arizona outscored the Illini 39-23 the rest of the way.
Still, Illinois was poised for the upset with 1:14 to go. The
Illini trailed 74-70 when guard Roger McBride missed a 3-pointer.
Shakur grabbed the rebound and threaded a long outlet pass to
Budinger, who hit a layup and took an intentional foul from
Budinger made both free throws, and Arizona had earned a tense,
"Outstanding basketball game, and certainly something that I
think will make Illinois better and will make us better as well,"