By Patrick Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat January 22, 1996
In theory, the Arizona men's basketball team does not beat UCLA Saturday.
But in what is starting to become a habit for them, the Wildcats threw theory out the window and shocked the No. 13 Bruins 88-79 in front of 14,638 at McKale Center.
Critics said this Wildcat team lacked a true point guard, or enough depth off the bench, or - with the loss of Joseph Blair to academic probation - a menacing post player. But here they are, No. 18 and 13-3, 3-2 in the Pacific 10 Conference.
It is the 3-2 that is most important, however. Had Arizona lost to the Bruins (12-4, 4-1), the Wildcats would have found themselves three games behind in the conference race, a deficit that would have given Arizona no room for error the rest of the season .
Now, after an 0-2 start in the Pac-10, the Wildcats are only a game out of first place. By defeating the defending national champions - and snapping their 10-game winning streak and 15-game conference winning streak - the Wildcats are confident they are in the race to stay.
"I think this was a must win," said senior forward Corey Williams, who scored 10 points and added a perfect 10 landing on a bench behind the Arizona basket after being fouled in the final minute. "It's always good to beat UCLA. I think we are the best team and I think we'll continue to win."
"This was very big - three losses in the Pac-10 would have been a tough hole to come out of," said Miles Simon, who simply exploded for a career-high 28 points, including six three-pointers, seven assists and five rebounds. "People counted us out after we lost Joseph, but we're only one game out of first."
Head coach Lute Olson said he was encouraged by Arizona's high level of intensity throughout the game, but cautioned there is still half a season to play.
"Come Monday, this win and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee," Olson said.
With the Bruins leading 52-46 early in the second half, the game turned in Arizona's direction. The Bruins started to commit some of their 11 second-half turnovers, and the Wildcats began to heat up from the three-point line. Simon hit three threes, and Michael Dickerson added four, helping Arizona finish 13 for 20 from three-point range.
The two sophomores combined for 16 consecutive points during a stretch late in the second half to push the lead to eight at 80-72 with 2 1/2 minutes left.
"They played lights out.They played a terrific game," Bruin head coach Jim Harrick said. "When you shoot 13 for 20 from the three-point line, that's just too hard to beat. We had the game - up six with the ball - and then we shot ourselves in the foot the rest of the way with turnovers. We were a day late and a dollar short."
While Arizona got 20 points from its bench, the Bruin bench contibuted only two, as UCLA depended on its starters for offense.
With Blair out, the Bruins, who lead the Pac-10 in rebounding with 41.3 a game, were able to out-rebound Arizona 37-31. But Ben Davis was able to keep the Wildcats close with 14 rebounds and 15 points.
After the game, Arizona players were not shy about expressing themselves to their detractors.
"We leave the ratings to sportswriters," Williams said, "but they don't account for heart. These people write who have never played before. We have a team of players who play until they drop."