By Monty Phan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
A Wildcat home victory. This, the Arizona men's basketball fans are used to.
Fourteen points, six rebounds, and just two personal fouls. This is the Ray Owes fans are used to.
And 28 points, 10 assists, and 38 minutes. This is definitely the Damon Stoudamire fans are used to.
But a 41-41 halftime tie? At home? Against the Beavers?
The fans were not used to this.
After trailing by as many as seven in the first half of last night's game at McKale Center, No. 13 Arizona held Oregon State to just 35.5 percent shooting and 28 points in the second half on its way to an 83-69 victory in front of a packed house of 14,257.
"In the first half we kind of let them do what they wanted to do, but in the second we really forced them to do a lot of things they didn't want to do," UA head coach Lute Olson said. "We had a definite advantage inside and we wanted to use it as much as we could."
As fans are now accustomed to, the Wildcats (20-6 overall, 10-4 in the Pacific 10 Conference) jumped on the Beavers early, scoring the first 11 points of the game, six from junior center Joseph Blair. Blair stayed hot, eventually scoring 10 in a row for Arizona, the last two on an alley-oop from guard Reggie Geary. But OSU (6-16, 3-10) started heating up as well, closing the gap to one point on a Brent Barry bomb from beyond the arc.
Another Barry jumper at the 12:07 mark, combined with a Mustapha Hoff layin, completed an 18-4 run for the Beavers, giving them a three-point lead in the process. Hoff's three-pointer with just over six minutes left then gave Oregon State a seven-point lead, its biggest of the game, 35-28. Then, with the Beavers leading 39-32, Geary jump-started the Wildcats with a three-pointer, and, after a Ben Davis layup, another jumper off the glass to tie the score. Davis and OSU's Stephane Brown exchanged baskets for the 41-41 halftime score.
"I don't think we had a lot of intensity in the first half, we got kind of soft," said freshman Miles Simon, who started for the first time since suffering a finger injury that had him out for four weeks. "All of a sudden I'm looking at the board, and we're down like 25-20 (it was 23-19), I thought the score was wrong."
"We jumped on them hard, but then we slacked off," said Blair, who finished with 12 rebounds and 19 points off 9 of 11 shooting. "We did a better job picking it up in the second mid
Whatever the Wildcats did differently in the second 20 minutes, they did it right. After four lead changes and two ties in the first four minutes, Arizona then rattled off 13 consecutive points in just over three minutes, courtesy of back-to-back three-pointers from Simon and Stoudamire. Just like that, an 11-point lead.
"In the first half, I was getting the looks, I just wasn't knocking down the shots," said Stoudamire, who was just 2-9 from the floor in the first half. "I told the guys if I was hitting the shots I was missing in the first half, the game wouldn't have even been close."
Arizona was able to push the lead up to as much as 22, on a Jarvis Kelley baseline jumper. But the real story in the second half was the defense the Wildcats were able to play against Barry and Hoff. The two combined for 29 of the Beavers' 41 first-half points, while playing all 20 minutes. They scored a combined 14 for the rest of the game, with Hoff just adding four.
"I think we surprised them a little in the first half," Barry said. "I bet Lute wasn't very happy about it."
"Once Barry has the ball something good is going to happen for them," Olson said. "If someone can do more than he can, I haven't seen him yet."
The win, combined with Arizona State's one-point loss to Oregon last night, puts UA in sole possession of second place in the conference heading into its matchup Saturday against Oregon. In addition, the Wildcats earned thier eighth straight 20-win season.
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