By Monty Phan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
With the recent team suspension of junior center Joseph Blair by Coach Lute Olson, it looked like the Arizona basketball team would miss its starting big man going into its home opener against Florida State.
With the Seminoles' noticeable size advantage and rebounding skills, it looked like the Wildcats would have to scratch and claw at the boards in order to match Florida State's skill.
They didn't, although the Seminoles outrebounded Arizona 41-34.
And with the see-saw battle that went on between the Wildcats and FSU in the first half of last night's game, it looked like the match figured to be close.
The No. 8 Wildcats (4-1) used a 16-4 run to start the second half on their way to a 96-78 rout of previously undefeated Florida State (3-1) last night at McKale Center.
"Just from our end of it, it was a very well-played game," Olson said. "We got a lot of people involved. That's what we had to have."
The concern before the game was how much of a difference the absence of Blair would make down low, but Arizona simply didn't give the Seminoles a chance to rebound, shooting a blistering 21 of 33 in the second half, and 7 of 10 from beyond the three-point line. The Wildcats ended up shooting 53 percent (36-68) for the game.
The first half proved to be somewhat of a catfight, with neither team getting enough rhythm to take over. There were nine lead changes and four ties in the first 20 minutes, with FSU's biggest lead of four points coming when guard Bob Sura sank two free throws with 4:41 left in the first half. But Arizona used a 15-4 run to close out the half and went into the locker room with a 43-36 lead.
Then came the onslaught. After inbounding the ball to start the half, UA guard Damon Stoudamire threw up a perfect alley-oop pass to Reggie Geary for the dunk. Then, after a Florida State miss, Geary nailed a three-pointer to put the Wildcats up by 12 only 42 seconds into the half. Arizona cruised the rest of the way.
"We started to get long rebounds, and the biggest thing is that we just didn't miss that many shots in the second half," said Stoudamire, who had a game-high 25 points. "We kind of broke the game open. They missed a couple shots and we got the board and we went down and scored. I think that was the biggest key."
The crowd also figured to be a key in the game. Armed with cards that had a "3" printed on them, it was hard to tell if the fans incited the players to shoot the trey or if the players just got a kick out of watching the fans wave the cards around.
"The fans were good with the support. They really helped tremendously with their enthusiasm," Olson said. "The momentum has to do with it and the crowd has to do with the momentum."
According to the players, among the halftime advice Olson gave his team was that FSU wasn't a great defensive team, and that finding the open man would be the key. They weren't, and it was.
"If we passed the ball around we'd end up with open shots," said Corey Williams, who finished with 11 points. "The shots that we hit are shots that the guys always hit, it's really a matter of us just making them and playing defense for a long time, and then getting the open shot."
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