By Patrick Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat January 11, 1996
Pretend for a moment you are Arizona head coach Lute Olson.
Your opponent, Arizona State, has outshot your team 50-32 in the first half because the Sun Devils hold an 18-7 advantage in offensive rebounds. Your Wildcats have 13 turnovers to ASU's five, and Michael Dickerson, Reggie Geary and Corey Williams are all scoreless in the first 20 minutes.
What do you tell the team at halftime?
How about, "Don't run up the score."
While the final score last night was 108-76, Arizona (11-3 overall, 1-2 in the Pacific 10 Conference) in truth ended the game in the first half, taking a 53-27 lead into the locker room. While it may seem otherwise, how the 18th-ranked Wildcats did it is no mystery, as any of the 14,401 in attendance at McKale Center could tell you.
Arizona got the ball to Joe McLean.
The 6-foot-6, 217-pound senior forward had a career evening, hitting five 3-pointers and scoring 22 points in only 10 minutes of action in the first half. He finished with a career-high 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting.
The Wildcats were not lacking for an inside punch either, as Joseph Blair and Ben Davis roughed up the smaller Sun Devils (5-6, 0-3). Blair tallied 14 points and 11 rebounds in the first half, and finished with 24 points on 12-of-14 shooting and 15 reboun ds. Davis added 14 points and eight rebounds. As a team, Arizona outrebounded the Sun Devils 59-44.
While the Wildcats played solid defense throughout, the Sun Devils at times were just ice cold. Arizona State finished 29 for 97 from the field, a mere 29.9 percent. Arizona shot 68.8 percent in the first half on its way to a 62 percent evening from the f loor.
The first half, which the Wildcats ended on a 37-15 run, was perhaps a purging of the last two games Arizona played, losses in the Bay Area to California and Stanford. The Wildcats, who just three weeks ago were No. 3 in the country, could not afford to f all to 0-3 in the Pac-10. But more importantly, said the players after the game, was to return to playing team basketball, which they said they did not do in the Bay Area.
"Sometimes you can get caught up in individual achievement," said senior forward Corey Williams, who finished with seven points. "We lost the team concept, and it might take two or three games to get it back."
While this is not the same ASU of last year - a team that went 24-9 and made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament - Olson said this game was crucial to start building the team's confidence again and end the negative talk that was popping up abou t the team..
"We definitely needed this game," Olson said. "After the trip we had you would like to have a room where you can lock the team up and control what they hear. These are still just kids."
After the road trip, the players held a meeting to address the issue of playing as a team, and to make sure each player "asked themselves if they were doing everything they could" to make the team successful, McLean said.
Olson said he held individual meeting with some players, to "get the focus back on the positives instead of the negatives."
Blair said last night's game was just what the doctor ordered for the Wildcats.
"We had to pick it back up and play team basketball. This is a giant step up," he said. "We're back in the right direction."
The woes continue for the Sun Devils, who have now lost four straight for the first time since coach Bill Frieder's first season in Tempe, in 1989-90. It won't get any easier for ASU, which next plays defending national champions UCLA at home next Thursda y.
"I don't think we did anything meaningful at all," Frieder said. "We have been struggling and not playing well. We have tried a lot of different lineups but we just have to keep trying until we win a couple of games."
ASU's main weapon, forward-guard Ron Riley, who is second in the conference is scoring with 20.7 points per game, suffered through a miserable game. The senior was hounded by Geary and finished with 11 points on 2-of-18 shooting. Guard Jeremy Veal led the way for Arizona State with 28 points.