No. 16 Arizona Tops UNLV, 89-75

Nov. 28, 2006

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - For more than a month, Arizona coach Lute Olson has prodded his team to play better defense, with little success.

But now he's found a way to mask some of the Wildcats' defensive deficiencies. Switching from man-to-man defense to zone defenses midway through the first half, 16th-ranked Arizona shut down UNLV 89-75 Tuesday night.

And Olson has no plans to change his scheme as Arizona wades into the toughest part of its nonconference schedule, beginning with Saturday's game against Illinois in Phoenix.

'We're going to stick with whatever we can do the best job at,' Olson said. 'It's a case where a change-up in defense sometimes bothers teams. They're used to coming down and going right into their man (-to-man) offense, and all of a sudden it's a zone. One defense may be better than the other, but the combination of the two together can cause the team to lose rhythm.'

Arizona's Ivan Radenovic scored a career-high 27 points, and Marcus Williams added 24, hitting 10-of-14 shots from the floor and all four of his 3-pointers. Chase Budinger scored 15 points and had 11 rebounds and Mustafa Shakur had 11 assists for the Wildcats (4-1), who have won four straight after a season-opening loss at Virginia.

'I think it's tough to cover both me and Marcus at the same time because we can both go inside and outside,' Radenovic said.

Scoring has never been a problem for the Wildcats. Defense has.

Arizona came into the game averaging a Pac-10-best 94.8 points, but it had conceded 79.0 points, 10th in the league.

That's why Olson started to tinker with zones.

'I think that's a defense that's going to be effective for us,' Olson said. 'When we had the starters in in the first half and went with a 1-3-1 (zone) for a while, we gave them a lot of trouble because they were having problems finding gaps in the 1-3-1.'

After UNLV (4-2) went on a 9-0 run to take a 27-25 lead with 6:40 to go in the first half, the Wildcats reeled off 14 straight points to take command.

The Wildcats switched from man coverage to a 1-3-1 zone and then threw in a 2-3 zone. Arizona held UNLV to one field goal over a 7 1/2-minute span at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second.

'It worked pretty well,' Shakur said. 'It took them a while to figure it out and crack the zone.'

The Wildcats limited the Rebels to 42.9 percent shooting from the floor, 28.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

Wendell White scored 18 points and Kevin Kruger had 16 for UNLV.

UNLV coach Lon Kruger said his shooters had trouble finding gaps in the zone.

'I think their (defenders') length surprised us a bit,' he said. 'We got on our heels a bit. You have to attack the seams.'

Now the Wildcats will try to shut down the Fighting Illini. This is the teams' first meeting since the 2005 Chicago Region final, when Arizona blew a big, late lead and lost 90-89 in overtime.

Both teams have different line-ups than they did that year. But the game will still mean a lot to Shakur, Radenovic and Jawaan McClellan, who played significant roles that season.

'Of course we wanted to win that game,' Radenovic said. 'We were waiting for a long to get that chance, and now we've got it. We won't be trying to get revenge. We just want to go out there and establish Arizona basketball and try to show the nation that we can play good basketball in the West.'

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