Three's the charm for Arizona

By Monty Phan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

If good things come in threes, then it must be an early Christmas for the Arizona basketball team, that is.

The No. 8 Wildcats (5-1) stepped onto the court last night less than 48 hours after their victory over Florida State, but they played like they never left.

After Arizona's torrid second half Tuesday night, the team continued scorching the nets as it shot nearly 60 percent in the first half, including 8 of 13 from behind the three-point line, en route to an 81-67 victory over the University of Houston (1-3) last night before a crowd of 14,257 at McKale Center.

"We were just kind of feeding off the last game," guard Reggie Geary said. "We came out in the first 20 minutes and gave it a real good effort. Unfortunately in the second half, I think guys got real complacent and lazy out there."

Players at various positions stepped up for the home team, especially in the rebound department. With Joseph Blair still on team academic suspension, forward Ray Owes made sure the glass stayed clean, pulling down a game-high 18 rebounds, half of Houston's total.

"Ray, he usually hits the boards hard anyway, but it seems like he's been on them extra since J.B.'s been gone," senior guard Damon Stoudamire said. "He's just been doing great for us. He cleaned the glass for us today."

Said Geary: "Ray Owes is big time stepping up. Eighteen boards tonight, that's something we need from him, because we're a small team even with J.B. and Ben out there. When we get those two, we're going to be even stronger on the boards."

A common theme emerging with the team is "The Tale of Two Halves." Just like Tuesday night, it seemed like a different Wildcat team took the floor after the intermission. Only this time, the second half was a poorer performance. The latter 20 minutes had Arizona shooting just 46 percent, and 2 of 7 from the three-point line.

In fact, it was probably a blessing in disguise that the second half was only 20 minutes long. With about 3 1/2 minutes left in the game, Houston went on an 11-0 run, cutting the Arizona lead to 12. Granted, many of the UA reserves were in, but to Coach Lute Olson, that shouldn't make any difference.

"We got sloppy in the second half," Olson said. "In a couple cases I thought it was less than the best effort. Reggie's always going to play hard, Damon's always going to play hard. Obviously, with Ray's job on the boards you don't get 18 rebounds without playing hard the whole time.

"The score doesn't make any difference to me as far as how mid

they're playing. There were a couple guys who moved down a notch tonight."

In fact, the UA started getting coaching tips from Olson Mrs. Olson, that is. With less than two minutes gone in the half, Geary was called for traveling. Spotting Olson's wife in the crowd, he yelled, "Mrs. Olson!" and made the traveling sign, mouthing, "Did I travel?" Well, did you, Reggie?

"Mrs. Olson said I did not travel," Geary said.

Said Lute Olson: "She does the coaching from the stands."

Nonetheless, Houston's play impressed many of the players on the opposing team as well.

"We just relaxed, they came back, they played harder than us in the second half," Stoudamire said. "That was all there was to it. I really couldn't give you any answers why we got complacent."

"(Olson) was upset we didn't finish strong at all," freshman guard Miles Simon said. "Guys got lackadaisical, things like that. Defensively, They stayed mentally focused the whole game. They always thought they had a shot to win, and that's just a credit to them playing hard."

Though the numbers show the work of Owes, what they don't show is the work of Geary. The junior seemed to be everywhere, even when the Wildcats looked to have the game in the bag. With under six minutes left in the game and a 16-point Wildcat lead, Simon stole the ball but lost it as soon as he got it. Seeing that a Cougar had an easy lay-in, Geary took off and blocked the ball off the backboard, while it was still on its way up. No goaltending, and one for the highlight reel.

"It was just luck, I was just hustling," Geary said. "I said 'I'm just going to take a swipe at this bad boy and if I get it I get it.' It looked good, so I'll say I planned it."

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