Bennedict Mathurin scored a game-high 30 points to lead No. 11 Arizona to an 83-79 nonconference victory over host Illinois on Saturday afternoon at Champaign, Ill.
Kerr Kriisa contributed 17 of his 19 points during the second half for the Wildcats (9-0), who erased a 13-point first-half deficit and withstood a pressure-packed second half that featured nine lead changes. Azuolas Tubelis added 16 points and eight rebounds.
Trent Frazier paced Illinois (7-3) with 27 points and five steals while Alfonso Plummer posted 25 points. Kofi Cockburn added 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Illini, who saw their five-game winning streak come to an end.
Illinois had just four players reach the scoring column.
The Wildcats bolted to a 24-18 lead as they rebounded eight of their first 10 missed shots and turned most of them into second-chance points.
Illinois responded with 19 straight points in just 2 minutes, 49 seconds, as Frazier went on a spree that sent the sellout crowd into hysterics. He started with eight points in 43 seconds as he sandwiched two 3-pointers around a slick between-the-legs crossover that left an Arizona defender grasping at air while he pulled up for a 15-footer.
After an Arizona timeout, Frazier flushed another 3-pointer and Cockburn scored to cap a 13-0 run. Following a media timeout, Plummer cashed a 3-pointer and Frazier turned a steal into a layup and a free throw to give Illinois a 37-24 lead with 7:01 left in the half.
Arizona supplied the next 10 points — capped by Oumar Ballo’s alley-oop dunk from Justin Kier — to pull within 42-38 by halftime.
Illinois tried to establish the 7-foot Cockburn in the second half, but Arizona defenders snuffed him on each of the first three possessions. Meanwhile, Mathurin cashed a 3-pointer and Dalen Terry canned two free throws to hand Arizona a 43-42 edge.
That triggered a dizzying second-half display of swift runs and swifter responses. Illinois recovered to regain a 50-45 lead, but that just seemed to amuse Arizona. Kriisa swished two 3-pointers and fed Mathurin for another 3 to cap a 12-0 run that gave the Wildcats a 57-50 margin with 12:18 remaining.
That, in turn, inspired Plummer’s 8-point spree in 56 seconds to push Illinois ahead 64-61 with 9:25 left. Five lead changes later, Arizona delivered the defining blow with seven straight points in the final 2:30.
–Field Level Media