By Monty Phan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona has been in this position before.
A pivotal road trip to Oregon, a game in Eugene that has a direct outcome on the Pacific 10 Conference championship, a sell-out crowd hell-bent on getting their money's worth Ä only difference is, it's on the hardwood, not the gridiron.
The No. 12 Arizona men's basketball team visits the 17th-ranked Oregon Ducks tonight in a matchup of the perennial contender and the new kid on the block. Just last October, the Wildcat football team traveled to Oregon in the heat of the Rose Bowl race, only to lose 10-9 to the eventual conference victors. Its basketball counterparts hope to fare differently.
The game will be televised on KTTU-TV (Channel 18) at 8:05 p.m., Tucson time.
At 12-2 overall, 4-1 in the Pac-10, the Ducks have shown that last year's season-ending 80-79 home victory over then-No. 15 UCLA was no fluke, as they repeated the feat this season with an 82-72 victory over a Bruin squad that was No. 2 at the time, a team that Arizona failed to beat at home last week.
Currently in the Pac-10, the Wildcats sit in a tie for fourth place at 3-2, 13-4 overall. They share the fourth spot with Stanford and Arizona State. UCLA is a mere half-game ahead of the Ducks at 5-1 in conference play.
"They rotate a lot of people," said UA coach Lute Olson about the Ducks. "They're playing well together as a team, as they did a year ago. It's a very veteran ball club."
As has been the norm so far in the Pac-10, dueling backcourts will again be a key in the game. The Ducks' combination of point guard Kenya Wilkins and senior guard Orlando Williams lead the team in scoring at 32 points per game. Williams' 19.5 ppg average is bested only by Damon Stoudamire (21.4) of Arizona and Mustapha Hoff (20.6) of Oregon State, who the Wildcats will face Saturday in Corvallis.
"There are a number of concerns for us, but probably the two biggest, again, will come at the guard spots with Wilkins and Orlando Williams," Olson said. "Orlando Williams as you can see is really putting the threes up and shooting them extremely well. So we would have Reggie (Geary) on him and if he's not able to go at full speed then we'll probably go with Michael Dickerson, too."
The road trip marks a homecoming of sorts for Stoudamire, who hails from Portland. The senior, who attended Wilson High School, has never lost against either of the Oregon schools, and is bold in proclaiming his unbeaten record will be intact when he gets back.
"I'm not going to lose, not (with) me going home," Stoudamire said. "I know that for a fact. We're not going to lose to either one of them."
"I just read in (Tuesday's) paper where Damon had proclaimed a victory over the Oregon schools this weekend," Oregon coach Jerry Green said. "I'm glad we do get to play the game. Him coming back home, he's going to be even more fired up. I see that in the way that his tone comes across in the sports page."
Oregon is a perfect 8-0 at McArthur Court this season, and Green attributes much of his team's success to its "sixth man": the fans. According to him, the 69 year-old arena is the "oldest on-campus arena in America," and, in Green's opinion, also the best.
"It certainly to me is the best arena in America on game night," Green said. "I think if anybody saw a game in there and saw the excitement, that it's one of those places that is second to none as far as enthusiasm. It's like the old Boston Garden in the fact that the fans in the stands have an immediate impact on the game."
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