By Monty Phan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
For almost nine seasons, McKale Center was a house of horrors for Arizona opponents.
Teams from Duke to Delaware State, Arkansas to Hawaii-Hilo, UCLA to ... well, you probably get the picture Ä came into the House that Lute Built, only to leave deflated and with one more loss, wondering where the mirrors were hidden or whether the place was just plain haunted.
The thrills are gone.
The Arizona men's basketball team, with its two-point loss at home to Cal Sunday, has lost two home games in one season for the first time since '86-87. Once, the Wildcats owned a streak of 71 consecutive home wins, the nation's longest at that time. That ended in 1991, and since then, the UA has lost one game a year at home, never by more than six points.
UCLA changed that last month. Just as the Bruins ended "The Streak," they also handed Arizona only its second double-digit loss (71-61) in the 12 years of the Lute Olson era.
Could it be "Home, sweet home" no more?
"In the past, it used to be that the home court was such an advantage," Olson said. "It just doesn't seem like that's the way it used to be. I think the biggest part of it is that the teams are so evenly balanced, it doesn't seem to make any difference where you play."
The numbers tell some of the tale. In 12 games at McKale so far this season, the Wildcats' average margin of victory has been 11.75 points, and Arizona has scored 78.2 points per game. In its Final Four season last year, Arizona averaged 20.73 more points than its opponents while scoring 96.9 points per game and compiling a 14-1 record.
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Reg-gie?: Reggie Geary, the UA's starting two guard and defensive stopper, has taken a vow of silence as of late. He has also been frustrated by a bothersome foot injury.
"It's frustrating when you're not well," Olson said of Geary. "How long has it been since you've seen him dunk a ball?"
"He's frustrated and he's a good ballplayer. He needs to go ahead and re-focus himself because we're going to need him coming down the stretch," senior guard Damon Stoudamire said.
"He's definitely not playing like the Reggie of old. He competes and still plays hard. He just needs to get some of that intensity back," he said.
For the record, Geary was still unavailable to the media.
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Un-Cheery-Owes: Senior forward Ray Owes, on the other hand, was talking.
He took offense at something that was written in a local paper, to the effect of mid
Stoudamire not having capable players around him. Needless to say, Owes considers himself a capable player.
"I think we're players all the time," Owes said. "You can't just win with one guy. It's obvious. When we win it's because everybody's playing well.
"We've been here a long time, we work hard every day. I think we're all good players or we wouldn't even be here. UCLA doesn't have better players than us. Ed O'Bannon isn't better than me. No way is he better than me. (Bruins' center George) Zidek is not better than Joseph Blair."
If recent history is any indication, Owes has a definite point. He is currently averaging 15.9 points per game and a team-leading 8.2 rebounds. He has put up double-figures in every game except for one, and has racked up six double-doubles in the process, including a career-high 18 rebounds against Houston last December.
In comparison, O'Bannon is averaging 18.6 points and 8.1 rebounds.
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Smiles for Miles: Freshman guard Miles Simon saw his first action since injuring his right index finger Jan. 11 against Cal Sunday Ä incidentally, that Jan. 11 game was also against the Golden Bears. According to Olson, he was cleared by doctors to play without a splint, but he prefers to keep it on.
"I'm not ready to play without it yet because it's still kind of tender," Simon said. "(The doctors) cleared me to play without it before the (Cal) game, but it was still sore and I don't want to take one hard hit and miss these two games. I wouldn't miss these two games for the world."
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