The long way back from 'hell'

By Patrick Klein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

After surviving "40 minutes of hell," the Arizona men's basketball team then endured about 14 more hours of it.

Arizona head coach Lute Olson made a point to bring up the trouble the Wildcats had flying back to Tucson after Friday's 83-73 win over Arkansas, in which they withstood the Razorbacks' "40 minutes of hell" full-court pressure defense. The team faces No. 16 Michigan tomorrow in the semifinals of the preseason National Invitation Tournament at New York's Madison Square Garden.

"Did you all hear about our trip back?" he asked at yesterday's weekly news conference.

Olson related the tale as such: The team received 5 a.m. wakeup calls from their Fayetteville, Ark., hotel in order to make a 6:15 charter flight to Dallas. But fog delayed the flight until 8:15. Then once the plane got in the air, a problem developed with the landing gear. The wheels would not retract so the plane had to land at Fort Smith, Ark.

The team sat on the ground in Fort Smith for almost three hours until 11:45, when it finally left for Dallas. Unfortunately the team missed its connecting flight from Dallas to Tucson. There was not another flight to Tucson until 7 p.m., so the team waited two hours and caught a flight to Phoenix.

From Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, the Wildcats got a connecting flight to Tucson and arrived home at about 6 p.m.

"It was not exactly a fun day," Olson said about the 14-hour journey.

Olson said senior center Joseph Blair, who has averaged 14 points and six rebounds this season, is questionable for Wednesday's game.

Blair rolled his ankle against Arkansas, but still managed to score 18 points and grab seven rebounds.

"He's probably more doubtful than possible for Wednesday," Olson said, adding that he will move Ben Davis to the Blair's position and start Corey WIlliams in Davis' spot if Blair doesn't start. Olson said Blair would not participate in yesterday's practice.

Blair, a 6-10, 265-pound senior, declined to comment.

"I don't think J.B.'s going to miss the game," sophomore guard Miles Simon said. "He's played hurt before. I don't think an ankle's going to keep him out of this one, it's a pretty big game for us."

"I'm sure he'll play," Davis said. "He's tough, he'll suck it up."

Davis has been cleaning the glass for the Wildcats so far this season. The 6-foot-8, 255-pound senior has averaged 12 rebounds a game to go with his 13.5 points, highlighted by a 15-rebound effort against Arkansas.

This was not news to Olson, who said he expects Davis to only get better.

"He gets rebounds he has no business getting. He's on one side of the basket and he gets the rebounds over on the other side," Olson said. "He will get nothing but better because the last couple of years he hasn't had continuity in a season."

Davis, who transferred to Arizona from Hutchinson Community College (Kan.) last year, sat out the 1994 fall semester because of a problem with credit transfers. Davis said that with a whole year to play, and more minutes because of starter Ray Owes' graduation, his stats should be better.

"I knew the numbers would go up because I would get more playing time, but it's playing hard more than anything," Davis said. "I get the rebounds because I want to win. We all wanted to win. Before the Arkansas game that was the first time I saw the look in everybody's eyes. That made me want to work even harder."

When California Golden Bears sophomore Tremaine Fowlkes, last season's Pacific 10 Conference Freshman of the Year, was suspended for the season by the NCAA for accepting $1,800 from an agent for the purchase of a vehicle last spring, Golden Bear head coach Todd Bozeman said the sanction was unfair. He compared Fowlkes' situation to that of Arizona's Davis last year.

Davis was suspended for the Wildcats' final regular-season game against Arizona State and Arizona's loss to Miami (Ohio) in the NCAA Tournament for accepting about $3,300 from a family friend over a period of six years.

"That's ridiculous," Olson said about Bozeman's statement. "The Davis situation was a case of a friend since high school. I don't know enough about the situation up there, but we tried to recruit Tremaine. We liked him as a player."

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