NEW YORK (AP)—Arizona couldn’t have had much worse of a shooting performance than it did in the second half Tuesday night, and the 14th-ranked Wildcats still left Madison Square Garden with another victory.
Ivan Radenovic had 22 points and 13 rebounds for Arizona, which shot 18.5 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes in a 72-65 victory over Louisville in the Jimmy V Classic.
“I’m really proud of how our guys hung in there despite our miserable shooting in the second half,” Arizona coach Lute Olson said. “That is something we have been trying to get across to them that if you play defense you can survive something like that.
“Three weeks ago we could not have won a game like this,”
The Wildcats (6-1) had a 44-35 halftime lead then missed 17 of their first 18 shots from the field as they lost, then retook the lead. Chase Budinger hit Arizona’s first shot of the second half for an 11-point lead, then after 17 consecutive misses, Mustafa Shakur hit a 3 with 9:40 left to give the Wildcats a 54-50 lead.
“In the second half we were shooting after making one or two passes and that’s not what we do,” Radenovic said. “But defensively we started to take away their 3-point shot and then we played well when they went inside.”
It was the first time this season the Wildcats scored less than 84 points in a game.
Juan Palacios had 15 points for the Cardinals (2-2), who managed to take a 50-49 lead with 13:18 left on a drive by Terrence Williams, but the comeback— and foul trouble—seemed to wear down Louisville which was unable to complete a lot of plays inside.
“I am really happy with my guys,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “I see great potential in this basketball team and if we continue to grow we are going to be an outstanding basketball team. I am not happy with the loss, but I am happy with our potential.”
Radenovic made two free throws with 10:30 to play to give the Wildcats the lead for good at 51-50, and despite never regaining the shooting touch that had them making 50 percent in the first half, they extended the lead to as much as 10 points.
The win gave Arizona a 5-1 record in Madison Square Garden since 2001.
“Our guys love the environment, love the enthusiasm,” Olson said. “The crowds here have been great and we get support because I think people enjoy watching our team because we share the ball and it looks like they’re having fun.”
The loss gave the Big East an 0-2 mark on the night as No. 22 Oklahoma State beat No. 21 Syracuse 72-68 in the opening game.
Budinger and Jawann McClellan each had 17 points for Arizona, which shot 34 percent overall (18-for-53), including 18.5 percent (5-for-27) in the second half.
Williams had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Louisville, which outrebounded Arizona 47-36, but was called for 29 personal fouls to 12 for the Wildcats.
Jerry Smith hit a 3-pointer with 10:03 left in the first half to give Louisville a 24-21 lead. Arizona then went on a 20-2 run which was capped by two 3s by McClellan.
The Cardinals went 1-for-7 from the field during the run that lasted 4:17 and committed four of their seven first-half turnovers.
Louisville was 4-for-17 from 3-point range in the first half then changed its focus to inside, going 2-for-4 from beyond the arc in the second half.
The game was the collegiate debut for Louisville forward Derrick Caracter. The 6-foot-8 freshman was suspended for the first three games of the season after receiving benefits from a family friend in the summer of 2005 before his senior year in high school. Caracter lost 50 pounds since arriving at Louisville in August weighing 318 pounds.
Caracter had nine points on 3-for-8 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds in 11 minutes before fouling out with 9:03 to play.
“He has great potential,” Pitino said. “He has a bad habit of reaching in all of the time instead of moving his feet. … Once he learns to play defense and his defense catches up to his offense he can be one of the most lethal weapons any coach can have. He has fabulous hands. He is a good passer. He is very agile for a big man and he has great potential. He has to put in his defensive work and it is going to take time because he has never played defense before.”
The Jimmy V Classic raises money for The V Foundation for Cancer Research, which was founded in 1993 by the late Jim Valvano and ESPN. The foundation has raised more than $60 million with the Jimmy V Classic donating more than $1 million.
On Tuesday, it was announced the Classic, which moved to Madison Square Garden in 2003, will continue to be played there through 2008.
Valvano, who led North Carolina State to the national championship in 1983, died of cancer in May 1993, just two months after delivering his famous “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up” speech at the ESPY Awards.