UA: 'And we weren't even ranked'

By Jayda Evans

Arizona Daily Wildcat

NEW YORK It was a different kind of show on Broadway Avenue and 34th Street than many East Coast fans may have expected.

With big schools such as Michigan, Georgia Tech and Georgetown, or big names such as Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury and Robert Traylor, the New York basketball junkies may have thought a "nobody" team from the desert didn't have a chance in the preseason National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

But No. 19 Arizona (4-0) pulled off the surprise, winning the NIT with a 91-81 win over No. 5 Georgetown (3-1) on Friday.

"Right now we are playing against a lot of hype," Arizona forward Corey Williams said. "It's real hard that way. I think a lot of people are taking the 'names' too far."

"We're not thinking about these other teams and their key players," Ben Davis said. "We have good players too and we have been playing against them since October 15, the first day of practice."

On national television and in front of a crowd of 12,949, the Wildcats showed the country what the team knew all along it can play basketball, and play it well.

Former Georgetown center and current New York Knick Patrick Ewing sat behind the Hoyas' bench to see Othella Harrington carry on the Hoyas' tradition of dominating big men, but the Wildcats didn't let him grab a single rebound and held the senior to four points.

Georgetown's sophomore sensation Allen Iverson scored 40 points, but the Wildcats held the rest of the Hoyas to single-digit scoring. Offensively, Arizona was on fire, shooting 60 percent from the field, with six of the nine Wildcats that played scoring in double digits.

After the game, Arizona was announced the NIT champions and presented with a gold trophy. Reggie Geary stopped the celebration on the court so Michael Dickerson, who injured his left ankle early in the game, could join his team on the court for a picture with the award.

The team chanted "And we weren't even ranked" instead of the traditional "cheese" as the cameras flashed before it.

"Now they know," Geary said. "We still have a long way to go, but now they most definitely know."

Geary had 11 points and 10 assists, but Iverson was named the tournament's most valuable player, scoring 63 points in two games. Arizona's Davis and Miles Simon were also named to the All-Tournament team with Georgia Tech's Marbury and Georgetown's Victor Page.

"It has been my feeling that the player that leads his team to the championship gets the MVP award, but if you talk to Reggie, I'm sure he would rather have the win," said Arizona coach Lute Olson, who has lost only once in three trips to the preseason NIT, winning the tournament in 1990.

"We played well when people thought we wouldn't. Overall this tournament worked out well for us," he said.

To get to the title game, Arizona had to get past No. 16 Michigan on Wednesday. The Wildcats' big men suited up to face 6-foot-9, 290-pound Robert "Tractor" Traylor from Michigan and left him stuck in his tracks. Joseph Blair, with a sprained ankle, scored 16 points and Davis added 17 points and 12 rebounds in Arizona's 86-79 win.

Arizona also gave thanks during the Thanksgiving weekend that some of the team's family members had the chance to see it play.

When Dickerson sprained his ankle against Georgetown after landing on a torn sole from his shoe, Joe McLean ripped off his warm-ups and gave his family from Pittsburgh a show, scoring two three-pointers from NBA range and hauling in two rebounds his first minute of the game.

"I have been dreaming about the chance to show everyone what I can do every night. Luckily, it was tonight in front of my family and on national television," said McLean, who scored 13.

The Wildcats weren't putting much weight on this win because they know there is a long road ahead of them if they want to get back to the East Coast in April for the Final Four in East Rutherford, N.J.

But the team was anxious to see what ranking it will receive after beating three nationally ranked teams.

"I want to see where they put us," Simon said. "It really doesn't matter to us though, we know we are good. They can keep us as the underdog actually that's probably better. We'll play like the underdog every night. That will keep up the intensity."

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