November 17, 2004
TUCSON - The Arizona Wildcats won their 13th consecutive Preseason NIT game Tuesday night — but this was no spectacular debut for a team that has its sights on the Final Four.
Mustafa Shakur scored 23 points and Ivan Radenovic 20 — both career highs — in the 10th-ranked Wildcats’ often-sloppy 80-69 victory over San Diego.
Salim Stoudamire also scored 20 for the Wildcats, who are 13-1 overall in the Preseason NIT. Arizona won the tournament in its last three appearances — 1990, 1995, 1999.
The Wildcats knew that they didn’t play up to their potential.
‘‘The first half was excellent. The second half was disgusting,’’ Stoudamire said. ‘‘I wanted to win, and I wanted to win by a lot. I thought we should have won by 40.’’
The Wildcats host Wright State in the second round Thursday night. The winner goes to the semifinals in New York next week.
Brice Vounang, San Diego’s 6-foot-8, 250-pound center with a soft shooting touch, matched his career best with 28 points and had 11 rebounds for the Toreros.
Brandon Gay added 17 points.
‘‘He had a great game,’’ Toreros coach Brad Holland said of Vounang. ‘‘He was allconference last season, and he’s taking the pressure well. He did a great job on Channing Frye. We didn’t have to double him. He did a good job one-on-one with him.’’
Shakur, the team’s sophomore playmaker who averaged just six shots a game last season, was 7-for-12 in Arizona’s season opener.
Radenovic, in his second season with the Wildcats from Serbia and Montenegro, was 8-for-17 and grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Wildcats led 41-23 at halftime.
San Diego, coming off a 4-26 season and 1-13 in the West Coast Conference, trailed only 14-10 after Vounang’s 10-footer with 11:42 to play in the half.
But Shakur banked in a 3-pointer to start a 16-0 Arizona run that made it 30-12 on Radenovic’s fastbreak layup with 5:15 left in the half.
Shakur scored eight, Stoudamire five and Radenovic three during the surge.
From that point on, the outmanned Toreros outscored Arizona 57-50.
‘‘One of the things I was a little disappointed in was we did not do a good job of really closing them out,’’ said coach Lute Olson, beginning his 22nd season at Arizona. ‘‘We just didn’t show that killer instinct that we need to have.’’
But Shakur and Radenovic, with late help from Stoudamire, overcame Arizona’s poor shooting to lead the Wildcats to victory.
‘‘We did a good job at times, but we let up in the end. We have to work on that,’’ Shakur said.
Shakur scored 12, and Stoudamire and Radenovic 10 apiece in the first 10 minutes.
Arizona’s Isaiah Fox sat out the game for disciplinary reasons. He will play Thursday, Olson said.