Arizona barely holds off Marathon run

By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
December 4, 1996

Charles C. Labenz
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Arizona forward Eugene Edgerson, left, eyes a potential rebound in the Wildcats' 91-89 exhibition win over Marathon last night at McKale Center.


It's obvious that no one can accuse Arizona of running up the score. The 15th-ranked Wildcats (2-1) turned an apparent laugher into a last-second win, beating Marathon 91-88 in an exhibition game last night at McKale Center.

"I don't know what to say about the game," UA coach Lute Olson said. "Right now we are lacking a take-charge person on the floor. It's like every time we need to pick up the pace, we have to call a timeout or wait for halftime.

"We wouldn't have to worry about this if Miles (Simon) was playing. If we weren't doing the job on the court, he would take the guys by the throat and get them going."

Simon, a junior guard, is ineligible this semester for failing to meet NCAA guidelines regarding academic status and has sat out all of the team's games this season.

The frustration for the Arizona coaching staff set in with 2:07 left in the game. The Wildcats were up by 11 points and were apparently turning around a lackluster first-half performance.

Then the young Arizona team decided to relax. After a holding foul on Marathon guard Dylan Rigdon, who played for Arizona from 1992-94, the Wildcats seemed to lose their focus. With two turnovers in 20 seconds, Arizona opened the door for Marathon to make a final charge. When Marathon didn't initially take the game, the Wildcats almost gave it away when a flagrant foul was committed against forward Byron Ruffner with less than a minute left. With about 90 seconds left, Arizona had seen its 11-point lead shrink to only one.

A Donnell Harris dunk gave the Wildcats the victory, but the way they won it left a sour taste in the players' mouths.

"We should have won this game by 10 or 15 points," said junior forward Michael Dickerson, who finished with a game-high 29 points. "We just didn't seem to be focused on this game and it showed at the end."

Arizona's woes did not begin in the second half. The Wildcats came out flat, allowing the Marathon guards to have their way on offense. Guard Curt Smith treated the Arizona defense like practice dummies, lighting up the Wildcats for 23 points.

"Basically, we couldn't stop their guards," Olson said. "We put Jason Terry on Rigdon in the first half, and he was not a factor, but Smith scored 23. In the second half, we put Terry on Smith and he only had four points, but Rigdon hurt us by scoring 17."

The Wildcats started the second half eager to improve on their dismal opening performance. Down 41-33 at the half, Arizona used strong defensive pressure and clutch shots by Dickerson to make a 15-5 run and take the lead.

"At halftime I told Michael not to worry about getting the ball inside and just go out there and create," Olson said. "That's when Michael is most effective for us. Sometimes he has to disregard the inclinations to get everyone else involved and just try and make things happen, especially when it seems like the other guys are not willing to step up and make plays."

With No. 3 Utah looming on Saturday in the Wooden Classic in Anaheim, Calif., the Wildcats are not very confident with the way they are progressing.

"I think our performance tonight was like taking a step back," Dickerson said. "If we come out against Utah like we did tonight, we will get blown out. We have to work on focusing on the game from the start and not just when we're down."