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Cats want repeat; Bruins seek revenge

ERIC M. JUKELEVICS/Arizona Daily Wildcat

Freshman UA center Channing Frye battles a Washington State defender for a rebound earlier this season in McKale Center. The Wildcats begin a two-game LOs Angeles swing today at Pauley Pavilion against UCLA.

By Jeff Lund
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday Feb. 14, 2002

Arizona looks to remain atop conference

McKale Center was silent.

The visiting Bruins were winning 73-53 with 13:41 remaining in the second half.

It didn't look good for the Wildcats.

Suddenly, the home team switched to a full-court press and went on a 23-2 run.

UA would take the lead and eventually win the game on a night that would not soon be forgotten. That event is sure to be on the minds of both teams tonight as No. 9 Arizona (17-6, 10-3) meets up with the same No. 20 UCLA (16-7, 8-4) team at Pauley Pavilion at 8:30.

"I am sure they are excited about us coming," head coach Lute Olson said. "There is no question that they really let (the game) here get away."

If recent history is any indication, tonight's matchup should go down to the wire.

Last year, UCLA knocked off Arizona in overtime as junior forward Richard Jefferson missed a shot at the buzzer following a missed free throw.

Though the Bruins are coming off a dismal performance in a 58-57 loss to unranked Villanova last weekend, Olson said he is expecting another nail biter.

"We've had some exciting games against them over there, including last year's," Olson said. "They are very good when they want to be good, and I'm sure they are frustrated by the Villanova loss, especially when Villanova held the ball so much of the time. (UCLA) knows that it's not going to be that kind of game with us."

Pacific 10 Standings as of 2/13/02
Arizona 10-3
Oregon 9-4
UCLA 8-4
USC 8-4
Stanford 8-4
California 8-4
Arizona State 6-7
Oregon State 3-10
Washington 2-11
Washington State 1-12

Olson said that though Pauley Pavilion is a difficult place to play - the Bruins are 4-1 in conference games at home this season - his team has been prepared by the difficulty of its opponents to date. In fact, Olson said he expects his team to play better because of the magnitude of tonight's game.

"This is the reason we play the non-conference schedule that we play," Olson said. "Texas was a tough place to play; Michigan State was an unbelievably tough place to play. We've been at Oregon and Stanford. I don't think the atmosphere is a problem - it is a plus for us. Our guys tend to play better (in a big-game atmosphere)."

One of the keys for Arizona will be in the paint, where it will have to contend with UCLA center Dan Gadzuric.

Last season, the 6-foot-11 center - playing after severely spraining his ankle earlier in the week - had a career night, scoring 22 points and grabbing 17 rebounds in 41 minutes of play while guiding the Bruins to the overtime win.

"Gadzuric had the game of his life," Olson said. "They were able to pull it out as a result."

Fortunately for Arizona in the game last month, Gadzuric played just 18 minutes and finished with 11 points.

It will be freshman Channing Frye who will have to neutralize the senior Gadzuric.

Frye said he is aware of what Gadzuric can do and is up for the challenge.

"He's strong, and he can get up the court," Frye said. "He is going to be a big challenge for me."

Olson said he also believes his team has matured since last month's victory but expects a hungry UCLA team as well.

"I feel that we are better than we were when we played them here," Olson said. "I am sure Steve (Lavin) would say the same thing about his team."

For Arizona, the game against UCLA will start the team's last road trip of the season, increasing the importance of the game.

The Wildcats are currently one game ahead of five teams in the Pacific 10 conference. One loss could make all the difference in seeding, as well as the regular season title.

Frye said that although tonight's game and Saturday's game with USC have big Pac-10 implications, he is not feeling much pressure.

"I think I am na•ve to the pressure," Frye said. "I think all the freshmen are. We just want to go out there and play well and get a win."


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