CHICAGO -- From the moment the first Arizona player went crashing to the floor, it was clear this was going to be No. 5 Illinois' game.
Cory Bradford set an NCAA record with a 3-pointer in his 74th consecutive game, and the Illini beat up on No. 7 Arizona en route to an 81-73 victory Saturday, avenging their loss in the Maui Invitational title game last month.
"There's no question the team that played the hardest for 40 minutes is the team that won," said Arizona coach Lute Olson, back on the bench after missing last weekend's game to be with his wife, Bobbi, who is undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer.
"I think in the last 20 minutes we played extremely well, but the game is not played over 20 minutes. They were tougher both physically and mentally than we were in the first half."
The Illini (8-2) played tough the whole game. Frank Williams went 9-of-10 from the free throw line in the final 3:27 to seal the game -- despite a strained muscle in his right shoulder that hurt so bad his teammates couldn't even pat him on the back.
Three Illinois players fouled out, and Lucas Johnson played with four fouls, including an intentional one for a second-half scuffle with Richard Jefferson. Robert Archibald, one of the Illini who fouled out, also was called for an intentional foul.
Illinois had 27 total fouls.
"The rules committee wanted to come back to being a game of finesse, not a game of hand-to-hand combat," Olson said. "I would say this was hand-to-hand combat. But if that's the way it's being played, that's the way you better play."
Just like last month, when Jason Gardner had to make two free throws with 11 seconds left to preserve Arizona's 79-76 victory at Maui, the victory didn't come easy for Illinois.
After trailing by as many as nine points in the second half, Arizona (5-3) cut the Illinois lead to 78-73 with 16 seconds left on two free throws by Gardner and a basket by Gilbert Arenas. But Arenas missed the free throw shot for the three-point play, and he and Gardner both missed 3-point attempts in the final 15 seconds.
The Illini didn't make a field goal after Marcus Griffin's reverse with 3:52 left, but it didn't matter as they went 15-of-20 from the line. Williams accounted for nine of those points.
"Beating Arizona was a big-time win," Johnson said.
Bradford finished with 13 points, including two more 3-pointers, and all of the Illini starters finished in double figures.
Michael Wright scored 21 for Arizona, which dropped to 0-3 in games at the United Center. The Wildcats also lost at the Great Eight tournament in 1997 and 1999.
It also was the second straight non-conference loss on the road for Arizona. That hadn't happened since 1989-90, when the Wildcats dropped three consecutive non-conference road games.
"I've never been one that believed in playing cupcakes," Olson said. "What good does that do? What we're concerned about is what happens the first week in January. Are we going to be a better team the first week in January because of this game? No question."
The Illini outrebounded Arizona 42-37, and held the Wildcats to 42 percent (27-of-65) shooting. No Illinois opponent has shot better than 45 percent this season.
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