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December 21, 2006
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TUCSON, Ariz. -The Pac-10 season begins in a week, and Arizona coach Lute Olson likes his team's chances.
The ninth-ranked Wildcats wrapped up their preconference schedule with a 79-71 victory over No. 18 Memphis on Wednesday night in the Fiesta Bowl Classic.
"This is not a team that's going to plateau," Olson said. "I think they're going to be a team that will keep getting better because they play hard, they practice hard and they really enjoy playing together."
Chase Budinger scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Ivan Radenovic scored 12 of his 18 in the last 20 minutes as the Wildcats (9-1) erased a five-point deficit to win their ninth straight game in their first meeting with a nationally ranked opponent this season.
"In the second half, I was trying to be more aggressive out there," Budinger, a freshman said. ``The first half my shot wasn't falling and I was settling for too many jump shots. The second half, I was just attacking the basket."
Mustafa Shakur led the Wildcats with 23 points and had six rebounds and five assists. The senior point guard was named the game's most valuable player.
``He just is so different a player this year than he's been before for us,'' Olson said. ``This is his team, it's his leadership. He does a great job of breaking the defense down. It's a difference between night and day, in my opinion, the way he's playing.''
Joey Dorsey, the Tigers' big forward, had eight points and five rebounds but played only 18 minutes and fouled out with 3:41 to play.
Memphis coach John Calipari was critical of the effort shown by some of his players but said the game was a learning experience.
``This is what we are - a young team that's still learning, that I'm learning about,'' Calipari said. ``Over the long haul, this team can be a good team. We're just OK right now.''
Arizona went 24-for-31 from the free throw line compared with 7-for-10 for Memphis. The officials were from Conference USA.
After going 6-for-11 from 3-point range in the first half, the Tigers missed their first 10 and were 2-for-13 from beyond the arc in the second half.
Down 38-33 at halftime, the Wildcats shifted to a 1-3-1 zone defense and outscored Memphis 22-8 to start the second half. Radenovic had two three-point plays in the run, and his two free throws gave Arizona a 55-46 lead with 13:13 to play.
``Five points is nothing for a high-scoring team like we are,'' Shakur said. ``The biggest thing that needed to change was our defense, and in the second half we came out making big plays.''
Cooper's three-point play on a rebound basket cut Arizona's lead to 75-71 with 2:05 to play, but two free throws by Budinger and two by Shakur in the final 1:33 sealed the victory.
``We quit penetrating the zone,'' Allen said. ``We were just passing the ball around the horn and that hurt us. We should have kept doing what we were doing in the first half, and that's penetrating the zone and making open shots.''
Consecutive dunks by the 6-foot-9, 260-pound Dorsey gave the Tigers a 33-27 lead and they were up five at the half. But Arizona caught up in a hurry as Budinger hit a 3-pointer, then a Memphis turnover resulted in a fastbreak dunk by Jawann McClellan tied it at 38 1:12 into the half.
Radenovic's three-point play with 17:10 left put the Wildcats ahead 43-42, their first lead since it was 4-2.
The Fiesta Bowl Classic had been a four-team tournament for the past 21 years, but the format was changed to make it a one-game matchup of elite programs.
Allen was 3-for-3 and Hunt 2-for-2 from 3-point range in the first half.