Eric M. Jukelevics
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior point guard Jason Terry (31) goes up for a dunk against the LSU Tigers Saturday night at McKale Center. Terry had 25 points and seven three-pointers to tie a school record in helping the Wildcats to a 78-71 win.
Despite never trailing in a sloppy 78-71 win over Louisiana State Saturday night at McKale Center, the Arizona men's basketball team knew after the game that things had not gone according to plan.
Two Richard Jefferson high-flying dunks had helped the Wildcats take an early 9-0 lead three minutes in to the game and it looked like Arizona (18-4 overall, 9-3 Pacific 10 Conference) would run away from the struggling Tigers (10-12, 2-10 SEC), who had lost 10 of their last 12 games.
But with the help of some careless Wildcat turnovers - a pass from Ruben Douglas that went about five feet over Jason Terry's head and into the crowd is a good example - LSU never gave in, keeping the Arizona lead under 12 the entire game.
And after shooting just 33 percent from the floor in the first half, the Tigers were within one just five minutes into the second half.
"We just didn't get too many positives out of this," said senior center A.J. Bramlett, who finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. "We never had any energy. Even when we went on runs, we weren't into it. We need to play much better than this."
Fortunately for the Wildcats, though, the trio of Eugene Edgerson, Michael Wright and Terry were strong enough to overcome the strong Tiger inside presence led by freshman Stromile Swift.
Edgerson and Wright combined for 27 points and 19 rebounds, nine of which came off the offensive glass, while LSU center Jebari Smith, coming off a 30-point, 15-rebound game last Wednesday, added only two points and seven rebounds to Swift's 21 points and nine rebounds.
"We got Arizona written on our chest so they're going to come out hard. But we are battlers and we just wrestle," Wright said. "We don't let anyone take anything from us."
Terry, meanwhile, was on fire from long range, tying a school record with seven three-pointers made out of 13 attempts. One of those three-pointers came when Terry, who finished with 25 points, five assists and three steals in 40 minutes, banked in a half-court shot at the buzzer marking the end of the first half.
"JT continues to carry us when we need it," UA head coach Lute Olson said. "They start to make a run, he hits a three."
Terry's performance didn't go unnoticed by the Tigers either, with Swift, guard Maurice Carter, who had 21 points, six rebounds and five steals, and LSU head coach John Brady all singing his praises.
"Jason Terry is a great point guard and he scores at will," Swift said. "He's definitely a first-team All-American."
But Terry wasn't content after the game, instead joining Bramlett and Edgerson in complaining about the young team's inability to concentrate every game regardless of the opponent.
"I guess this team only steps up for big games," Terry said. "It is coming along but we are tired of waiting. Coach O gets on them every practice but I don't know what we can do."
A step Olson did take with the five freshmen other than Wright, who stayed solid with 15 points and 11 rebounds, was making them run extra laps after the game was over for being late to a film session earlier in the day.
"I was telling (Associate Head) Coach (Jim Rosborough) we should have done it during the game so it would have been more embarrassing for them," Olson said. "The whole thing is that people have to be responsible. They're all good kids but somewhere the responsibility has to get in."
And after Stanford, UCLA and Washington lost Saturday, the Wildcats now hold their destiny in their own hands and will win the Pac-10 if they win the rest of their games.
"We know now that we are right back in the hunt," Terry said. "We want to win the Pac-10 title, but we have to take care of our job first."