Guards ready to tangle in Big Game

By Monty Phan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

There're the big guns: Arizona and UCLA. There're the big gurus: Lute Olson and Jim Harrick. There're the big guards: Damon Stoudamire and Tyus Edney.

Put 'em all together, and what do you get? The Big Game.

There will be a lot on the line when the Bruins take on the UA basketball team tonight, but that's no surprise. It's more than just the No. 11 UA versus No. 4 UCLA. It's more than just bragging rights. In fact, it's more than just The Big Game it may decide who is the Pacific 10 Conference champion.

Tip-off is at 7:30 at McKale Center. ESPN will broadcast the game live.

In one of the two most anticipated conference games this season the other being when Arizona visits Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus Feb. 19 the Wildcats (12-3 overall, 2-1 in the Pac-10) come into the game on a roll, fresh off of a sweep of the Bay Area schools last weekend.

The Bruins (9-1, 3-1) don't look too shabby either, having just beaten both Washington and Washington State at home. When you combine that with a Bruin win over then-No. 3 Kentucky in Anaheim, Calif., last month, UCLA looks to be the usual formidable opponent.

"Concerning the UCLA game, probably the biggest problem that they create is defensive matchups," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "Board-wise they've got some really good athletes, so that'll be an important aspect of it."

Having lost three of the last four meetings including a 98-74 drubbing last year at McKale the Bruins definitely have a motivating factor going into the game. But when it comes to Arizona, do they really need any motivation?

"They know how well Arizona plays when they're down there, so we've got our work cut out for us this weekend," Harrick said via a conference call this week.

Both teams have what are considered two of the best players in the country at point guard: Arizona's Stoudamire and UCLA's Edney. Stoudamire's latest endeavor was a 45-point explosion in an 89-83 overtime victory at Stanford, the latter's, an 11-assist, five-steal performance in the Bruins' win over Washington State.

"If he gets 45 on me, tell him I'm going to break his leg," Harrick said jokingly. "Holy mackerel, I watched that game and he had a terrific performance. He's really playing well and I'm happy for him.."

"That'll be a great matchup," Olson said. "You look at what the two of them are doing and you see quite a few similarities. We obviously have to rely more on Damon for scoring. They look at (Edney) as he's scoring more, but he's really a distributor.

"Either one of us would be in deep trouble without their play. They would really be vulnerable to pressure without him, as would we."

The meeting will be a reacquaintance of sorts, as the two point guards have known each other since high school. (????????????) Their relationship has since grown beyond the lines of the basketball court.

"Tyus, he's a good guy," Stoudamire said. "He's one of those people that everybody likes. He's a very likeable guy. He's easy to talk to, he's real reserved."

Though Stoudamire may star in Harrick's nightmares almost as much as he stars on the court, the UCLA coach has personal respect for the Arizona senior.

"I've never seen anything ever wrong with him," Harrick said. "I nicknamed him 'Nails' when we were with the USA University team this summer and he certainly typified that. He's tough as nails."

Nevertheless, the game is still about which team scores the most points, not which point guard is more spectacular. And Stoudamire sees the big picture.

"People probably try to build it up as that, but I don't see it as that," Stoudamire said.

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