By Patrick Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Earlier in the week, Arizona head coach Lute Olson said last night's exhibition game against Marathon would be a chance to give all his players substantial playing time.
He wasn't kidding Ÿ 11 of the 12 active Wildcats logged between 18 and 23 minutes in Arizona's 85-75 win in front of 13,923 at McKale Center.
The only drama was provided by the 12th man on the roster, walk-on Eugene Thompson, whose last-second attempt to ensure every Wildcat scored was wide right off the rim.
It was not pretty, but No. 4 Arizona (4-0) built a 28-point first-half lead and withstood a furious second-half rally by Marathon.
"We were all saying 'Let's go, let's go,' but we cruised a little too much," said Reggie Geary, who had four points and seven assists in 21 minutes. "A lot of guys said they'd have a good first half and then, let's go home."
The game was billed as a chance for coaches to get a look at Arizona's reserves. Sophomore guard Kelvin Eafon played 20 minutes, forward Donnell Harris played 18, guard Jason Terry played 18 and forward A.J. Bramlett played 19.
"Anytime you can get them 10 to 15 minutes Ÿ and we got them 20 minutes Ÿ anytime you can do that, you have to be pleased," assistant coach Jesse Evans said. "Obviously we've got a ways to go with some of our younger guys, Donnell and A.J. and Jason Terry also Ÿ he's just got to cut down on his turnovers. But at least we got a chance to see it on tape. We can show it to them and then make the corrections."
Center Joseph Blair, still recovering from a twisted ankle suffered last Wednesday against Michigan, played 20 minutes and scored 12 points.
The most entertaining matchup was between Marathon's Isaac Burton and Arizona's Geary and Miles Simon. Burton, a starter at Arizona State last season, joined Marathon two games ago. His nickname at ASU was "Ice," and Burton was ice cold in the first half, shooting 1-8 from the field for three points. He warmed up in the second half, however, hitting three 3-pointers on his way to 15 points.
"It's always nice to hit a trey against Arizona," said Burton, who received a chorus of boos when he was introduced before the game.
He was high on the play of Geary.
"He's taken on the responsibility of leading the team. He plays me hard and is a tenacious defender," Burton said.
The game seemed destined to be a rout from the beginning. Arizona scored the first 16 points and the McKale fans, who traditionally stand until the opponent scores, didn't sit down until the first television timeout. Then they had to get back up because Marathon still hadn't scored. Mark Meredith finally hit a 3-pointer to end the drought at the 15:52 mark.
The Wildcats extended the lead to 42-14, and held a 25-point lead as late as 13:17 in the second half. But Marathon went on a 31-12 run to move to 76-70 with 3:12 to play. After a timeout, Geary was inserted back into the lineup after an extended rest.
After letting Terry and Eafon play guard, Geary came in and restored order, leading a 9-5 run as Arizona hit its foul shots down the stretch for the win.
Guard Joey Wright led Marathon with 18 points.
"We let down a little bit. We had a mental lapse," said Joe McLean, who led the Wildcats with 16 points and started in place of the injured Michael Dickerson, who is recovering from a sprained left ankle and did not dress for the game. "We need to work on playing a full 40 minutes.
"But Reggie came in and took control," he said.
Said Geary, "Coach told me to go back out there and pick things up."
While the end of the game provided some excitement, most of the fans didn't stick around to enjoy it. There was far from a capacity crowd on hand, and McKale was about half-full when the buzzer sounded.
"We go out and play for ourselves, not for them," Blair said. "If they don't like it, they can go home."
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