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Stoudamire, Frye finish run as four-year starters in style

JACOB KONST/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior Salim Stoudamire is presented with a framed jersey by head basketball coach Lute Olson after his final home game in his Wildcat career. Stoudamire made a school record nine 3-pointers and scored 31 points during the 91-70 win against Oregon State yesterday.
By Brett Fera
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, February 21, 2005
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It was the perfect sendoff to an anything-but-perfect four-year run.

Records were broken, tears were shed and fans left satisfied as the UA men's basketball team sent four-year starter seniors Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire and reserve senior Matt Brase away as winners.

The No. 10 Wildcats defeated the visiting Beavers of Oregon State University 91-70 yesterday afternoon in McKale Center.

"It's an outstanding group," UA head coach Lute Olson said during a post-game ceremony at midcourt to honor his three departing veterans.

But Olson, who is on pace to become the Pacific 10 Conference's all-time wins leader as early as this week, made sure to let the 14,592 fans who hung around to say goodbye know that while the Wildcats won't be returning to McKale again this semester, their season is far from finished.

"It isn't over yet," quipped the 22-year UA head, in reference to the team's chance to reach its fifth Final Four.

But for Arizona to make it to St. Louis and contend for its second National Championship next month, the Wildcats will undoubtedly need to rely on the steady play and heady leadership of Frye and Stoudamire, who combined for 46 of Arizona's 91 points in yesterday's win.

"I'm happy all the fans came out to support us," Frye said. "I got real serious in the middle of the first half and they were like, 'Channing, just relax. It's OK.' I wanted to win so bad that I think I wasn't really enjoying it until the second half."

Frye said he was glad to see so many people in attendance cheering him and his teammates on.

"It was just a great opportunity and I want to thank everybody for coming out and supporting us," Frye said.

Stoudamire scored 31 points and set a school-record of nine 3-pointers, breaking the mark set by fan favorite Jason Gardner in December 2001, but the Portland, Ore., native's mind was anywhere but on his own performance after the game.

"Right before the game I was like, 'Man this is my last home game,'" said the 6-foot-1 shooting guard. "I kind of got upset."

But the roads leading to center stage, or rather center court, for the Wildcats' senior trio were anything but parallel.

Frye, a 6-foot-11 center and an interdisciplinary studies major, spent his four years in Tucson not only as the consummate big man, but also as the consummate team player.

"I think it seems like it went as quickly for him as it did for me," who said this? "He's been really a great kid in this program. The way he represents himself, his family and the team, it's great."

Brase, a Tucson native and the son of Olson's daughter, Jody, has officially been at the UA for only two seasons, even though both grandfather and grandson agree the 6-foot-6 forward has been a Wildcat his entire life.

"I hope I can stay as long as possible," said Brase, a business administration senior. "I've been at it since I was a little kid. I couldn't see life without this program."

Stoudamire, also an interdisciplinary studies major, took perhaps the most awkward path to yesterday's celebration, earning himself an unfavorable reputation over the past four seasons for his quiet, if not misunderstood, off-court demeanor, and his penchant for pouting on the court if things don't necessarily go right.

But over the past two months, since he was suspended from a UA road game against Marquette University not the first time Olson sat the 6-foot-1 shooting guard for problems with his demeanor - Stoudamire's deadly shooting touch has earned him recognition nationally, while his attention toward being a better teammate has earned him the recognition of his coach.

"You can see with Salim, it's very seldom you see the scowl," Olson said of Stoudamire's change in face. "The only thing that was holding him back was that he let things bother him too much when they weren't going right."

While Stoudamire and Frye may move on to the bigger and better things on the court, like the professional ranks, living the dream and playing for the hometown team forced Brase's emotions to show themselves yesterday.

"It's just great to go off with two quality guys like that," Brase said.

With the last home game behind him, Stoudamire said he is focused on graduation.

"A goal of mine is to graduate," Stoudamire added, NBA future or not. "I've only got a couple more classes after this semester. That's real important to me."

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