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Illinois Notes
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 12/04/2007
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Game 8:? No. 22 Arizona (5-2) vs. Illinois (5-2)

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Date: ? Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007

Time: ? 11 a.m. CST

Location: ? United Center (21,711), Chicago, Ill.

Radio: ? Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)

TV: ESPN (Brad Nessler/Steve Lavin/Doris Burke)

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Game data: ? No. 22 Arizona (5-2, 0-0 Pac-10) travels to Chicago for a neutral-site match-up against Illinois (5-2, 0-0 Big Ten) Saturday at the United Center ... The Cats have been idle for the last six days, a welcome respite after playing six games in the previous 15 days ... Arizona leads the Pac-10 with an average of 18.0 assists per game.

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The Rankings: ? After a two-week absence, Arizona returned to the polls on Dec. 3, checking in at No. 22 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 24 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll.

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Arizona Head Coach Lute Olson . . . will begin his 25th season at Arizona and his 35th overall as a college head coach with a career record of 780-280 (.736) and 589-187 (.759) at Arizona upon his return from a leave of absence, which was announced on Nov. 4 ... He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 27, 2002 ... Olson became the 16th coach in basketball history to tally 1,000 career victories (covering all levels) on Dec. 11, 2004 ... Olson recorded his 775th collegiate victory on Jan. 24, 2007, and became Arizonaˇ?s career victories leader (510) on Jan. 17, 2004 ... He has the most Pac-10 wins (327) of any coach in league history ... Olson has the second-best conference winning percentage (.764/327-101) and second-most league championships won (11) in Pac-10 history (minimum three years), trailing only UCLAˇ?s John Wooden (.810/304-74/16 titles)?... During his 24-year tenure at Arizona, the Wildcats have won one national championship (1997), played in the national championship game (2001), participated in four Final Fours (1988, 1994, 1997, 2001), won 11 Pac-10 Conference titles, four Pac-10 Tournament crowns (1988, ˇ®89, ˇ®90, 2002) and been to the NCAA Tournament for 23 consecutive seasons, which is the longest active and second-longest streak in NCAA history (North Carolina, 27) ... He also led Iowa to the 1980 Final Four ... Olson has been named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year seven times (1986, ˇ®88, ˇ®89, ˇ®93, ˇ®94, ˇ®98, 2003), the Big Ten Coach of the Year twice (1979 & ˇ®81) and directed the UA program to the nationˇ?s third-best winning percentage over the past 20 years (519-142/.785) ... In his collegiate career, Olson has produced 52 NBA Draft picks, including 31 at Arizona ?C 25 alone since 1990 ... Heˇ?s led UA to 20 consecutive 20-win seasons and has 29 overall in his career, making him one of only three head coaches in NCAA history to record 29 or more 20-win seasons...Under Olson, the Cats are 344-40 (.896) in McKale Center and have won 272 of its last 296 home games ... He is assisted by Kevin Oˇ?Neill, Josh Pastner and Miles Simon.

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Last Time out: ? Arizona struggled early, found itself in a big hole and then impressively dug itself out in earning a hard-fought 78-67 win last Sunday.? Trailing 32-12 with 6:47 to go in the first half, UA outscored Texas A&M 66-35 the rest of the way, including 50-27 in the second half, to pull away.? Jerryd Bayless led all scorers with 26 points and joined with Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill to outscore the Aggies in the second half.? The Cats shot 59.1 percent? and held Texas A&M to just 34.5 percent shooting in the second half.

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Scouting Illinois: ? The Illini enter play Saturday with a 5-2 record after a 78-61 win over Weber State on Dec. 1.? Through seven games, Illinois averages 69.9 points per game, shoots 44.0 percent (180-of-409), and outrebound the opposition by 6.9 rebounds per game.? Opponents shoot 40.3 percent from the floor and are outscored by an average of 6.4 points per game.? Individually, two Illini average in double figures, led by Trent Meacham, who averages 10.9 points? per game.? Shaun Pruitt leads Illinois with a 7.4 rebounds per game average.

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The Series: ? Todayˇ?s contest marks the 14th meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 7-6 series advantage.? Arizona has won three of the last four meetings, including the last, an 84-72 triumph on Dec. 2, 2006, in the Hall of Fame Challenge in Phoenix.? The two schools have met six times since November 2000.? All-time, Arizona is 3-0 in series games played in Tucson, 0-3 in Champaign and 4-3 in neutral-site games.? Please see page 100 in UA media guide for more series information.

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The Last Meeting: ? Arizona 84, Illinois 72, Dec. 2, 2006: ? The Wildcats exorcised a few demons and enacted a small piece of revenge dating back to March 2005 in earning a difficult 12-point victory. ?After falling behind by as many as 16 points in the first half, Arizona chipped away and cut the deficit to five at the break before outscoring Illinois, 48-31, in the second half, keyed by a 21-4 run that covered 8:08.? All five UA starters finished in double figures, led by Chase Budingerˇ?s 22 points.

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The Last United Center Appearance: ? Illinois 81, Arizona 73, Dec. 16, 2000: ? Illinois connected on 15-of-19 free throw attempts in the final 3:51 of the game and withstood a brief Arizona rally to earn the eight-point win.? The Cats cut the lead to five with 16 seconds to go, but a missed free throw and two three-point attempts to sealed their? fate.? Arizona opened the second half with a 9-0 run to take a brief 41-38 lead, its only one of the second half, before Cory Bradford scored five straight points to give the Illini a 43-41 lead with 14:57 to go.? Michael Wright led all players with 21 points and seven boards.

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Against the Big Ten: ? Arizona carries an all-time record of 30-29 (.508) record against teams that currently reside in the Big Ten Conference.? The last meeting was a 72-63 loss to Purdue on March 16, 2007, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Since the start of the 2000-01 campaign, Arizona is 8-6 against Big Ten opposition.

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A Different Look on the Sidelines: ? Prior to the Nov. 4 exhibition game, it was announced that UA head coach Lute Olson would be taking a leave of absence due to a personal matter.? There has been no timetable set for his return to the sidelines even though he attended practice on Nov. 26.? During this period, assistant coach Kevin Oˇ?Neill will handle the head coaching responsibilities.? Oˇ?Neill has 11 seasons of experience as an NCAA Division I head coach, where he compiled a 152-165 (.479) record while at Marquette, Tennessee and Northwestern. Oˇ?Neill spent the last seven seasons in NBA circles.? During Olsonˇ?s leave of absence all games will be credited to Oˇ?Neillˇ?s coaching record.

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Stepping Up: ? In leading Arizona to a pair of wins last week, Jerryd Bayless averaged 23.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists.? The freshman from Phoenix, Ariz., shot 60.0 percent from the field (15-of-25), 44.4 percent from three-point range (4-of-9) and made 13-of-14 free throws to go with eight assists and a steal.? He opened the week with 21 points, two assists and a steal in a 26-point win over Cal State Fullerton.? He followed that with a season-high 26 points, three rebounds and six assists in the 11-point win over No. 9 Texas A&M.? Against the Aggies, Bayless scored 14 points in the first half to keep the Wildcats in the game, then tallied 12 points and five assists in the second half as UA erased a 20-point deficit.? He leads the Cats with averages of 19.9 points and 4.9 assists per game, while shooting 51.3 percent from the field.? Bayless was named national player of the week by rivals.com and collegehoopsnet.com.

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Choosing His Spots: ? Jawann McClellan definitely made the most? of his three-point attempts in Sundayˇ?s win.? The 6-foot-4 senior from Houston, Texas, dropped in two treys in the second half.? His first at the 12:46 mark gave UA its first lead of the second half, while his second at 5:54 gave the Cats a lead (62-60) that they would not relinquish.? His two treys Sunday equaled a season high.

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Top Notch: ? Arizonaˇ?s win over No. 9 Texas A&M was its first this season against a ranked opponent in two tries, following last Sundayˇ?s 76-72 overtime loss at No. 4 Kansas.? It was also UAˇ?s first win over a top-10 foe since a 96-95 double overtime win at No. 7 Washington on Dec. 31, 2005.? Interestingly, it was UAˇ?s first win over a top-10 opponent at McKale Center since Jan. 27, 2005, in a 91-82 win over No. 10 Washington.? Sundayˇ?s win vaulted the Cats back into both polls for the first time since Nov. 12.

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Clawing Back: ? Arizona erased a 20-point deficit in Sundayˇ?s win over Texas A&M, finding itself in a 32-12 deficit with 6:47 remaining in the first half.? Over the gameˇ?s last 26:47, UA outscored Texas A&M 66-35, including a 50-27 margin in the second half.? It was Arizonaˇ?s largest comeback since the Wildcats erased a 21-point, first-half deficit against Oregon State on Jan. 6, 2002.? In that game, UA trailed 55-34 with 1:21 to go in the first half before coming from behind to win 93-87.? Three times this season Arizona has erased a double-figure deficit (11 vs. Virginia and 11 at Kansas) in a game, but Sunday was the first time the Cats were able to do that eventually prevail.

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With a Little Help from My Friends: ?? As mentioned above, Jerryd Bayless netted 14 of his 26 points in the first half against Texas A&M.? He got some help in the second half as Chase Budinger (14) and Jordan Hill (11) combined to score 25 points in the second half.? Bayless, who scored 12 points after the break, Budinger and Hill combined to outscore Texas A&M 37-27 in second half.? Bayless tallied five of his six assists in the second half against the Aggies and all five were to either Budinger or Hill.

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Made Shots Make a Difference: ? After allowing Texas A&M to shoot 60 percent (15-of-25) from the field in the first half of Sundayˇ?s game, the UA defense clamped down and limited the Aggies to just 34.5 percent (10-of-29) in the second half en route to 46.3 percent (25-of-54) shooting for the game to finish with a season-low 67 points.? That percentage was 32 points lower than TAMUˇ?s season FG percentage entering the game.? Conversely, Arizona shot 59.1 percent (13-of-22) from the floor in the second half on the way to 51.1 percent (24-of-47) shooting for the game.? It was the first time this season that an opponent had shot better than 50 percent or better from the floor against Texas A&M.? The 78 points scored were the most allowed by TAMU this year.

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Shoring Up the Middle: ? Arizona held its own against a Texas A&M starting frontline that averages nearly 6-foot-10, by finishing nearly equal on the boards, 29-28.? UA did outrebound TAMU, 19-14, in the second half.? It was the smallest rebound advantage for Texas A&M, who was outrebounding opponents by more than 12 per game entering Sundayˇ?s contest.? Bret Brielmaier and Jordan Hill shared game high rebounding honors with five boards apiece.

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Taking Care of the Ball: ? After turning the ball over 18 times Wednesday against Cal State Fullerton, Arizona committed just 10 turnovers Sunday against Texas A&M, including just three miscues in the second half.? Turnover points proved important in the contest, as Arizona held a 14-7 turnover points advantage in Sundayˇ?s win.

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On target: ? Over the last five games, Arizona has been a hot shooting team, connecting on 55.1 percent (140-of-254) of its tries from the field.? The Cats have shot 50 percent or better? from the floor in four of the last five games and currently lead the Pac-10 Conference with a .514 (189-of-368) FG percentage.? Thatˇ?s a nice improvement over the first two games this year, when the Cats shot a combined 43.0 percent (49-of-114) from the field.? Arizona is 4-0 when shooting 50 percent or better from the field this season.

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Not Set In Stone: ? Arizonaˇ?s starting five of Budinger, Brielmaier, Walters, McClellan and Bayless last Sunday was the fifth different lineup used in seven games to date.? By comparison, UA used three different lineups in 31 games a year ago.?

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Scoring 80: ? Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 165-19 (.897) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points.? Arizona is 3-0 this season when topping the 80-point plateau.

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Early Signees: ? The Arizona coaching staff signed four student-athletes to National-Letters-of-Intent during the November early signing period.? Brandon Jennings (G, 6-0, 170) from Lakewood, Calif., Oak Hill Academy; Brendon Lavender (G, 6-4, 180) from Mesa, Ariz., Mountain View High School;? Emmanuel Negedu (F, 6-7, 230) from Bloomington, Ind., Brewster Academy; Jeff Withey (C, 6-11, 240) from San Diego, Calif., Horizon High School, will join the squad next fall.? According to rivals.com, this class was ranked as the seventh-best nationally.

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Up Next: ? Following todayˇ?s action, the Cats will break for final exams.? The club returns to action on Sunday, Dec. 16, when it hosts Fresno State.? Tip-off for that contest is scheduled for 1 p.m. MST and will be televised by FSN Arizona.

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