Arizona’s trio of freshman starters combined to score 62 points as the No. 21 Wildcats pulled away from Illinois for a 90-69 victory on Sunday night in Tucson, Ariz.
Point guard Nico Mannion led the way with 23 points and nine assists, while Josh Green scored 20 points and made 4 of 7 3-point shots. Post player Zeke Nnaji had 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting to go with five rebounds.
Illinois, playing its second game in three days in the state of Arizona after beating Grand Canyon in Phoenix on Friday, wilted in the second half. The Fighting Illini went scoreless for a stretch of about 4 1/2 minutes, allowing Arizona to take control with a 15-0 run for a 68-52 lead at the 7:51 mark.
Illinois (2-1) was led by Ayo Dosunmu with 15 points. Andres Feliz had his second double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Trent Frazier scored 14 points.
Arizona was aggressive defensively, coming up with 14 steals, which contributed to 22 Illinois turnovers.
Arizona was up 53-52 when it started its second-half surge with what amounted to a five-point possession.
Green hit a 3-pointer from the corner while Illinois was called for a foul off the ball. Arizona retained possession, and Ira Lee made one free throw before the Wildcats rebounded his miss. He was fouled again and, again, made 1 of 2 from the line for a 58-52 lead with 11:38 left.
The 15-0 run allowed Arizona, which shot 55.7 percent, to launch into a 22-point lead late in the game.
Illinois hit its first three 3-point attempts to take a 9-2 lead. The Wildcats later used a 13-1 run for a 23-18 lead before momentum kept swinging in a fast-paced, hot-shooting half in which the teams combined to knock down 54.4 percent of their shots.
Dosunmu went on a personal 6-0 run over a 47-second span late in the half for a 36-32 lead, but Arizona poked ahead 39-38 at the break when Max Hazzard hit a long 3-pointer in the final seconds.
—Field Level Media