By Monty Phan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
LOS ANGELES Ä With 9:06 left in Arizona's game against Southern Cal last night, the Wildcats' two leading scorers, Damon Stoudamire and Ray Owes, each had six points.
Arizona had a five-point lead, its biggest to that point being seven.
And the two players who have been missing for a good deal of the Pacific 10 Conference season did what they needed to do. They took over.
With his family in the stands and plenty of friends to impress, Arizona's Reggie Geary and Miles Simon scored 18 and 13 points, respectively, to lead the Wildcats to an 89-80 victory over the Trojans at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
"Everybody stepped up their game," Stoudamire said. "Reggie played pretty good. That was more or less important for him, getting his confidence back to where it needs to be."
In a game that seemed to be characterized by the crowd Ä 3,565 attended the games, one-third of the arena's capacity Ä the game was, more or less, boring. There were no large scoring runs, no dazzling dunks, no spectacular passes. In a nutshell, no "L.A."
"I actually expected us to win by more than we did," junior center Joseph Blair said after the game. "It was a five or seven point game for a while. I'm just happy we won the game, as long as we came out with a 'W'."
"I've had way bigger crowds than this at Mater Dei (High School in Santa Ana, Calif.), way bigger," Simon said.
The lack of noise before the game carried over to the lack of spark during the game. After USC's Tyson Reuter hit a three-pointer to start the scoring, Owes answered with a dunk. Then the basket swapping commenced, as UA grabbed its first lead with less than 16 minutes left in the first half, only to lose it again less than a minute later.
The Trojans' Stais Boseman nailed one from behind the three-point line to give his team a five-point lead, but a Simon jumper and a Stoudamire three-pointer tied the game at 17.
Overall, there were five lead mid
changes and three ties, all in the first half.
"I'm 100 percent better, more healthy now than I was the time I played them before," Geary said. "We knew the importance of this game. I just had some open shots, and a couple went in and that felt good."
"It's nice to see Reggie and Miles," UA coach Lute Olson said. "Both of them had great shooting games."
After going into the locker room with a 43-38 lead at halftime, the Wildcats slowly put the Trojans away. Unlike past history, however, they did it as a five-man team instead of a one-man show.
Stoudamire didn't reach double figures until there was only 6:53 left in the game. Owes reached the double-digit plateau just 25 seconds later. For the season, each has only one game which they scored under 10 points.
But while USC was doing a defensive job on the seniors, the rest of the team was enjoying the benefits. Overall, five men scored double figures, with Blair tying Geary's high of 18 points as well as grabbing nine rebounds.
"I thought it was Joseph Blair's best game Ä maybe ever," Olson said. "Board-wise, I thought he did a great job. (The balanced scoring) is critical to us as a team. Damon knows he doesn't have to carry us anymore."
"We have a balanced team," Simon said. "Anybody can step up on any given night."
On this night, the Wildcats won the game the old-fashioned way Ä they made their shots. Though Southern Cal shot 45.6 percent from the field Ä not too bad an effort for a team which shot 43 percent for the season Ä Arizona was able to win by shooting 20 percent better.
"Arizona's interior hurt us, particularly in the second half," USC coach Charlie Parker said. "I looked down our bench and with only one 6'3" guy left, it doesn't give us many choices. We just don't have enough to go against their size."
"This is definitely a team win," Olson said.
The Wildcats are not through here. Sunday afternoon, they will be at Pauley Pavilion to take on No. 6 UCLA, which beat Arizona State in overtime last night.
The UA-Bruins game begins at 1:45 local time and will be televised live on ABC.
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