Arizona's early exits setting trend

By Monty Phan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

When the Arizona men's basketball team started practice Oct. 15, 1994, both players and coaches promised it wouldn't be a typical season.

After all, the team was coming off its second trip to the Final Four in school history hardly a typical feat. The Wildcats also had All-American Damon Stoudamire, hardly a typical point guard.

The atypical trend continued, but not in Arizona's favor. The team lost three Pacific 10 Conference home games, the first time that happened since the 1983-84 season, head coach Lute Olson's first, and the last time the Wildcats had a losing record. So, for all intents and purposes, it wasn't shaping up to be a typical season.

However, that changed March 16. In losing to Miami (Ohio) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the team's third first-round loss in four years, critics wondered if early exits were typical of Arizona, and not Final Four appearances.

Whatever the case may be, the following are some of the more telling quotes from the team as they appeared in the Wildcat.

"With Khalid (Reeves) gone, it changes the guard situation, where I would say the scoring would be more balanced than what it was last year. I would expect that Damon (Stoudamire) and Ray (Owes) would give us bigger numbers than they gave us a year ago because of their experience, and ... there will be more shots to be divided up among the other guys on the court." UA head coach Lute Olson, on his preseason backcourt evaluation. Stoudamire went on to average 23 points and 7.4 assists per game, becoming only the second

player in the Pac-10 to lead both categories, and accounting for over 40 percent of the Wildcats' offense.

"It was just luck. I was just hustling. I said, 'I'm just going to take a swipe at this bad boy and if I get it, I get it.' It looked good, so I'll say I planned it." junior shooting guard Reggie Geary, on his block during Arizona's home victory against Houston.

"I have played better. I had to do what I had to do. Our team needed a boost, and I was feeling it on the offensive end. I just wanted to be in attack mode from start to finish." Stoudamire, after scoring 45 points in the Wildcats' overtime win at Stanford in January.

"Lately I haven't been getting too much playing time. It's not fun but I have to just bear with it ... I'm just taking it game by game." sophomore Jarvis Kelley, on his playing time through the first half of the season. Kelley is reportedly transferring to Rice in the fall.

"Certainly it's the toughest from top to bottom that it's been in the 12 years that I've been here. There are a lot of good teams in the league." Olson, on the strength of the Pac-10, which sent five teams eventual national champion UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and Stanford to the NCAA Tournament, second only to the Big 10 Conference in the number of teams (six).

"It was hard, obviously, especially since you know you can come in and make a positive impact. That's hard. If you were on the team and you knew you could go out there and do something positive, it'd be hard for you too, I'm sure." junior transfer Ben Davis, on missing the first eight games of the season because of academic ineligibilty regarding a problem in transfer credits from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.

"He's my little project. I've been riding on him, he knows I've been riding him, even in games I'm in his face. We're definitely the Odd Couple. He's real quiet, but when he talks, he talks. I just think he needs to get a little meaner." Geary, on his "tutoring" of freshman forward Michael Dickerson.

"I'm not going to lose, not (with) me going home. I know that for a fact. We're not going to lose either one of them." Stoudamire, predicting the Wildcats would win both games in Oregon. They did, improving Stoudamire's career record against the Oregon schools his home state to 8-0.

"I'm not sending any message. That guarantee I gave I don't know how to say it it was a guarantee that we were going to win, but I didn't mean it the way it was taken. But since it was taken that way, I guess I can't do anything about it." Stoudamire, after Arizona recorded its victory over the Ducks, the first of two games against the Oregon schools. Stoudamire's comments reached the Oregon papers, inciting the home crowds in both games.

"You've got three officials out there, which is absolutely ridiculous. So fine, one guy makes the call, the other guy should come over and say, 'Look, the other guy threw it at him first.' You've got six sets of eyes out there, you can't be that blind to it. Their job is to call the game, and they stopped calling the game. It's like, 'Hey, you've got a big lead. We don't have to call anything.' ... I don't care what the Pac-10 says on my comments on this, it's ridiculous. If you're going to work the game, then work the game." Olson, on a technical foul called on Stoudamire during the Wildcats' win against Oregon State. Stoudamire fouled Stephane Brown, who tauntingly handed the Arizona guard the ball, which Stoudamire promptly threw back at him, drawing the technical foul.

"He's had so many good (games) it's hard to pick out one. But certainly when you look at his line with his assists, it wasn't just barely a triple-double, it was a triple-double with 13 (minutes) left in the game. That's hard to believe." Olson, on Stoudamire's 32 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds against Oregon at home, his first career triple-double at Arizona.

"I was never naive to the situation. As soon as you find out how unimportant you are, how unimportant you become, due to injury or bad playing, it comes out even more. You start realizing things aren't that great ... If I was a sophomore I'd be gone. But I'm not. I'm in a situation where I can't leave now." Geary, on his midseason problems with Olson.

"An excuse is just a made-up lie. We could sit here and give you a hundred excuses, but we wouldn't be men. We just got to fess up and look at it that we lost. We can sit here and give you a million excuses why we lost Ben didn't play, JB wasn't well, my shot wasn't going in but we just got to face it. We lost." Stoudamire, after Arizona's 71-62 loss to Miami (Ohio) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"I understand rules, but I also understand common sense, and until they throw dirt on me, I will never understand how someone can do this ... I would stake my life on it, the fact that this kid has not done anything wrong. But I also know the rule, and I know why rules are there. It's just a shame, though, that in some rules an innocent person is taken away from having the opportunity to just play this game out. I will never understand that." Olson, on the suspension of Stoudamire for NCAA rules violations concerning an airline ticket that his father, Willie, took from a Los Angeles agent.

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