UA unable to catch Bruins in big game

By Monty Phan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

WESTWOOD, Calif. Webster's should think about adding another definition to the dictionary.

It could read: Arizona-UCLA (n) a game between perennial superpowers who usually battle to the final minute after a succession of lead changes and ties, causing skipped heartbeats for coaches and the disappearance of fingernails for fans. See also big game.

The UA men's basketball team and the Bruins more than lived up to that definition yesterday at Pauley Pavilion as sixth-ranked UCLA edged No. 12 Arizona 72-70 in front of a packed house of 12,653.

"It hurts," said UA point guard Damon Stoudamire. "We just should've won that game. I don't care what (the UCLA players) say, we should've won that game."

While in prior "big games" the Wildcats (19-6 overall, 9-4 in the Pacific 10 Conference) have often hopped on the backs of their two seniors, Stoudamire and forward Ray Owes, it was Stoudamire who carried much of the load yesterday. The Bruin defense frustrated Owes for most of the game, as his fourth foul with over 13 minutes left in the second half forced UA coach Lute Olson to sit him for the next seven minutes. Owes finished with no points and eight rebounds.

"I feel like if I would've played a halfway decent game we would've won," a dismal Owes said. "We didn't take advantage of our scoring opportunities."

UCLA, however, did. As the Bruins have done much of their season, they got a lift from their big man, senior forward Ed O'Bannon. Owes' counterpart scored a career-high 31, including 18 in the first half. In fact, he scored UCLA's first seven points of the game, giving his team an early 7-5 lead, after Stoudamire scored the Wildcats' first five points off a three-pointer and two free throws.

Arizona took its first lead at 10-9 when Stoudamire sank a basket at the 14:37 mark. The Wildcats, during an 11-0 run, were able to push the lead to as high as seven points by O'Bannon during a 12-2 run to take a three-point lead.

Enter Stoudamire, who then hit two consecutive three- mid

pointers to get the score back in favor of Arizona. But O'Bannon scored less than two minutes later to tie it at 29. After Bruin guard Tyus Edney sank a jumper, Stoudamire came back again, giving his team the lead back on a basket and a free throw. UCLA then closed out the half, scoring the last six points, the biggest being a layup at the buzzer by Charles O'Bannon, Ed's brother, that gave the Bruins a 40-33 halftime lead.

"That was big," Stoudamire said. "It turned out to be probably you hate to say decisive baskets but that was one of those baskets that really hurt."

"It was a great rebound by Ed, kicking it to Toby, and it was great instincts by him to find me," Charles O'Bannon said of the play. "I just tried to get it up as quick as possible and try and get the points."

The second half proved much of the same Stoudamire and Ed O'Bannon. Both scored 13 in the latter 20 minutes, but the Bruins had just a slightly stronger supporting cast. Bailey combined with O'Bannon to hit big shot after big shot, as he scored 12 in the second half, 19 for the game. Where there were six lead changes and two ties the first half, there were only two and one in the second. An alley-oop pass to center Joseph Blair (15 points and seven rebounds) from Stoudamire gave the Wildcats a one-point lead, but O'Bannon's bucket 40 seconds later gave the Bruins the lead again. Miles Simon's three-pointer tied the game after Charles O'Bannon hit two free throws, but Ed O'Bannon's three-pointer at 14:42 gave UCLA the lead again this time for good.

Arizona refused to let up, though, cutting the lead to three with just under two minutes left when Owes grabbed the rebounds after Blair's missed free throw, getting the ball back to Blair for the lay-in. After the Wildcats' defense forced a 35-second shot clock violation, Reggie Geary tried to tie it on a three-pointer with less than 45 seconds left. He missed. Late dramatics by Stoudamire and Geary they hit one each from behind the arc in the final minute couldn't save the Wildcats, however, as a Charles O'Bannon free throw, a dunk by Bailey and two free throws by Ed O'Bannon sealed it for the Bruins.

"Ed O'Bannon played great," Olson said. "He's played great all year long. He does it not only offensively and defensively, but with emotion. As far as Tyus and Damon, the point guard establishes the flow win. Statistics are for losers. What you do in the end is what matters."

"I missed a big-time shot out there. I kind of moped about that for a second," Geary said. "We battled with them, unfortunately they were just the better team today. I have no problem with holding my head high."

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