First half run leads Cats to victory

Arizona used an 18-0 first half run to take a comandding first half lead and never looked back. The Cats beat the Diego Toreros 80-69 in the first round of the preseason NIT.<P>

The Cats opened up the game with a 10-2 run and later added a 23-4 run which put the game away. The Toreros went ice cold during the run going scoreless for a 6:49 span of the first half. Arizona led at the half with the score 41-23, allowing the Cats to hold off a spirited San Diego team in the second frame.

"San Diego shot the ball well in the second half," Coach Olson explained. "They did a good job."

San Diego outscored the Wildcats 46-39 in the second half, but could not get any closer than the final 11-point deficit.

During the first half run, Mustafa Shakur scored eight points, including back to back long shots.

Shakur ended the game with 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. It was an impressie showing by the sophomore point guard.

"Mustafa did a good job tonight," Olson said. "He worked hard the entire game."

Arizona's defense was present in the game the first half, an ingredient which was missing from their exhibition win over Sonoma State.

Brice Vounang was San Diego's big man and lead scorer with 12 of USD's 23 points in the first half, and 28 for the game.

Vounang finished with a career high 28 points, but his solid performance was not enough to lead the Toreros.

"The big man on the inside (Vounang) destroyed us the whole game," said Olson.

Despite the good defensive strike in the first half, Arizona stumbled defensively in the second half being outscored by seven points.

"We just need to have that killer instinct that when you get someone down 20, you need to be going for 30," said Olson.

Arizona had 10 steals in the game, Shakur and Hassan Adams contributed three a piece. With their strong defensive showing, it was evident that defense was an area that the coaching staff stressed.

"We did a good job at times," said Shakur. "We let up the last seven minutes. We just have to get better with each game. We improved defensively but we have to be more consistent." While Shakur stuck out as the clear player of the game, the rest of the team played very well with a balanced attack. Salim Stoudamire had another good game with 20 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists.

"We're not a team that can rely on one guy (to score) if we're going to be successful," explained Olson. "We need to score from all five positions."

Another outstanding performance came from the much improved Ivan Radenovic. Radenovic added 20 points and 10 rebounds while playing 35 minutes.

"Ivan had an outstanding game for us," Olson said. "Defensively, he did a nice job with a lot of deflected passes."

Arizona was able to overcome a poor shooting performance. They shot just 39.2% but strong first half defense and consistent offensive rebounding allowed them to cruise to the win. This was an area that was missing from last year's team. A poor shooting performance usually resulted in an Arizona loss.

"I thought we missed some good shots in the second half," said Olson. "We weren't strong enough to finish the play."

A key area of focus for Coach Olson was the rebounding game, which he had spoken of for weeks. Arizona did not let down their coach winning the rebounding battle 46-38.

"We got good effort off the boards," Olson stated. "We had a lot more chances than they had. We really should have been able to put it away faster. The second half we did a much better job."

Arizona was clearly the dominant team in the game. They never put San Diego away, but they never trailed in the game. Next Arizona will play Wright State on Thursday after the Raiders defeated Tulsa in overtime 72-66.

"Everyone thought we'd be playing Tulsa on Thursday," said Olson. "I said that if we do win the first game, I would not be surprised to play Wright State because they're a veteran ball club."

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