Dec 4, 2001
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX - Jason Gardner scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half, including six consecutive free throws over the final 54 seconds, and No. 7 Arizona held off fifth-ranked Illinois 87-82 Tuesday night.
Frank Williams scored 16 of his 30 points over the last 4:19 as the Illini (6-2), who trailed by as many as 19 points early in the second half, narrowed the gap to four.
Rick Anderson scored a career-high 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 21 minutes for the Wildcats (4-1) before fouling out with 57 seconds to play. Freshman Isaiah Fox added 12 points, nine in the first half as Arizona built a 16-point lead.
Williams' third 3-pointer in his late rush cut the lead to 84-80 with 36 seconds to go.
Gardner lifted Arizona out of danger with his final two free throws that made it 86-80 with 32 seconds remaining, then Fox made one of two from the line to put the Wildcats ahead 87-80 with 16 seconds to go. Sean Harrington, fouled by Fox on a 3-point attempt, made two of three free throws with 7.8 seconds to play for the final margin.
Gardner made 12 of 15 free throws, while Williams was 9-for-9 at the line.
The teams met for the fourth time over the last 13 months. The Wildcats won three of the four, including an 87-81 victory in last season's Midwest Regional final.
The game was the first half of a doubleheader dubbed the Southwest Showdown at America West Arena. Arizona State played Utah in the second game.
Illinois went inside in a 20-6 run that cut the lead to 64-59 on Damir Krupalija's two free throws with 7:31 to play.
Arizona freshman Will Bynum's three-point play boosted the lead to 67-59 with 7:19 remaining. Illinois cut it to five again, but Anderson grabbed teammate Luke Walton's missed free throw and was fouled. Anderson made both free throws to make it 70-62, then Dennis Latimore scored inside to put Arizona up 72-62 with 4:38 to play.
The Wildcats made three of five 3-pointers to start the second half, the last by Anderson, to go up 58-39 with 15:25 to play.
Arizona led 47-31 at halftime, even though Gardner had just five points on 1-for-5 shooting. The junior playmaker, the only starter back from last season's NCAA runner-up team, was coming off a career-high 34 points in Saturday's 105-97 home loss to No. 4 Kansas.
Arizona has played a nationally ranked opponent in all five of its games.
The Wildcats held Illinois to 28 percent shooting in the first half and pestered the Illini into 13 turnovers, compared with three for Arizona.