By Monty Phan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
One word of advice to the Arizona men's basketball team: there are two Los Angeles schools.
The 12th-ranked Wildcats take on Southern Cal Ä the "other" L.A. school Ä tonight in what may be the most important weekend of the basketball season, mostly because Arizona will be facing UCLA. But that's Sunday. And UA has to get past the Trojans first.
The teams tip off at 7:30 p.m. Tucson time in the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The game will be televised live by ESPN.
After last Sunday's home loss to Cal, the team attitude seems to be, "UCLA who?", as the Wildcats (18-5 overall, 8-3 in the Pacific 10 Conference) know that the only way this trip can be deemed successful is if they arrive back in Tucson two wins richer.
Senior guard Damon Stouda-mire, for instance, said, "I'm not talking about UCLA." He was, however, quite opinionated about USC.
"Personally, I don't even like playing USC," he said. "I think they're one of the most physical teams in the country. They do a lot of tactics and illegal type stuff, but it's going to be a good game for us. It's going to show what kind of character and heart we've got to try to bounce back from what happened Sunday."
The Trojans (7-14, 2-9), tied for ninth in the conference, have lost seven straight games, but they lay claim to two of the best frontline players in the Pac-10 in forwards Lorenzo Orr and Jaha Wilson. The former, a senior, is currently leading the team in scoring at 18.5 points per game, while the latter, a sophomore, leads the conference in rebounding at 10.1 per game.
"He's a great player," said senior forward Ray Owes, who is expected to defend Orr. "When he gets the ball down low, he shoots it every time so if I do a good defensive job on him that's going to cut out a big part of their game."
The same could be said for Owes. He has been on a tear of late, averaging 20.4 points the last five games, over four points more than his season average. Last time he faced his Trojan counterpart, however, Orr recorded team-highs of 22 points and eight rebounds to Owes' 17 and four.
"What we need is our guys to play like Ray Owes everytime out," said UA coach Lute Olson of his starter's 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block performance last Sunday. "That's what we need. We need eight Ray Oweses. You never see a change in Ray's intensity or his involvement. He's always there and he's always involved."
Olson also praised center Joseph Blair, who has also stepped things up the past three weeks. Over the last six games, Blair has averaged 12 points and eight rebounds, both above his normal output. In fact, Olson has been satisfied with the majority of his big men.
"The numbers on the inside are coming more in the direction that we've got to have them come," Olson said. "We're getting much better concentration inside from the guys. They're sitting down and getting in deeper. That's really important to us."
Since Arizona routed USC by 21 in the last meeting, some may feel there could be a lapse in concentration because the team is still in the mindset of the last game, and because UCLA is just over the next hill.
Said Olson: "The ones you worry about are the ones that you've blown somebody out and you got to go back and play them again Ä can you get them to focus on the fact that, hey, that game is over and this is a different kind of circumstance."
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