Saturday , Dec , 02 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Wildcats hope to continue winning ways against Illini

Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) – The 16th-ranked Arizona Wildcats and Illinois
Fighting Illini will meet in Phoenix this evening, as they take part in the
2006 Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge.

Lute Olson’s Wildcats dropped the season-opener at Virginia, but have won
four straight games since, including Tuesday’s 89-75 win over UNLV. The
Illini won their first seven games to start 2006-07, but had that great
start come to an end in Tuesday’s 72-66 loss to Maryland as part of the ACC/Big
Ten Challenge.

Head coach Bruce Weber will try to post his 200th career win for the
second straight time in this one. Arizona has won four of the last six
matchups between these two teams. However, it was Illinois that captured the
last contest, a 90-89 thriller in the 2005 NCAA Chicago Regional
Final, to pull even in the series.

The Illini have not been successful this season with flashy offensive numbers,
but rather tenacious defensive pressure. The team is averaging 74.8 ppg, but
is holding foes to a mere 53.6. The team is also boasting a +10.5 rebounding
margin and forcing 19 turnovers per outing. Despite the rather modest scoring
average, six players are averaging double figures, led by Shaun Pruitt’s 12.8
ppg. Pruitt is also the team’s leading rebounder (7.5 rpg). He gets help on
the glass from Warren Carter (11.6 ppg), who is grabbing 6.5 caroms per
game. Sophomore point guard Chester Frazier has been outstanding as well,
averaging 10.4 ppg, while leading the Big Ten in assists (6.8 apg). The
scoring depth is definitely needed, as the team is still without starting
forward Brian Randle, who will miss 2-4 more weeks following abdominal
surgery on November 17th. Pruitt and Carter both posted double-doubles
against the Terrapins, but it wasn’t enough to secure the win. Pruitt
finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Carter netted 13 points
and grabbed 11 boards as well. Illinois struggled against the Maryland
defense, shooting a mere .348 from the floor, including just 5-of-20 from
behind the arc (.250).

It is no secret how Arizona likes to score points. The team is averaging
nearly 11 three-point baskets per game (10.8). The result has been a lethal
scoring average of 93.6 ppg. The team is shooting a healthy .535 from the
floor and .402 from behind the arc. The frontcourt trio of Chase Budinger,
Ivan Radenovic and Marcus Williams has been unstoppable. Budinger and
Radenovic are averaging 19.4 and 19.2 ppg, respectively. Williams isn’t far
behind at 16.4 ppg. The rest of the starting five consists of guards Jawann
McClellan (14.6 ppg) and Mustafa Shakur (11.4 ppg), who provide plenty of
perimeter support. This is a team that has multiple bodies mixing it up on the
boards, led by Budinger (7.4 rpg) and Radenovic (7.0 rpg). The team as a whole
is enjoying a +12.0 rebounding advantage per game. In the recent win over
UNLV, the Wildcats ended the first half on a 17-7 run and picked up in the
second stanza with a 23-8 run, to secure the win. Radenovic finished with a
career-high 27 points, while Williams poured in 24. Budinger notched a double-
double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Shakur finished with just four points,
but dished out 11 assists.