Rivals meet again at McKale

By Monty Phan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Just call him Coach Owes.

On the eve of the 12th-ranked Arizona men's basketball team's last regular season game against rival Arizona State, senior forward-turned-coach Ray Owes used his last chance to give Coach Lute Olson a few last minute tips on how to stop the Sun Devils' leading scorer, Mario Bennett.

"It seems to me he's a good player right around the basket, if you let him get the ball by the basket," Owes said. "I always wonder why teams just don't push him out the block, because he doesn't seem to be able to turn around and score too much over somebody."

The last time the two teams played, ASU squeezed out a one-point victory in Tempe. Bennett, however, was limited to just eight points by the combination of Ben Davis, who started the game, and Joseph Blair.

"When Ben played him, Ben kept him outside the block. (Bennett) couldn't do anything," Owes said. "Every basket he scores is a layup. If somebody's in front of him, then he has to throw it over (the defender's) head. I mean, does it take a genius to figure out how to stop him?"

Davis will again start for the Wildcats (23-6 overall, 13-4 in the Pacific 10 Conference) when Arizona tips off against the 18th-ranked Sun Devils (21-8, 11-6) tomorrow at 2 p.m. Blair, who suffered a foot injury Tuesday afternoon when he landed on Davis' foot during practice, is "questionable to doubtful" for the game, said team trainer Steve Condon.

The game will be televised by Raycom (Channel 13).

Owes and point guard Damon Stoudamire will both be honored at the game, as it will be the last time either player will be in McKale Center in an Arizona uniform. Junior transfer Marty Barmentloo, who is returning to his home in Littlehampton, South Australia after the semester, will also be honored.

While it may be the last home game, it's not the last game. After all, there's still the NCAA Tournament.

"I'm not going to feel any different," Owes said. "It's not the last game. There's a lot of hype, because it's the seniors' last (home) game, but I'm not going to think of it like that."

Owes does know he needs to be physically prepared, however, because ASU always plays hard but they haven't always played well. But with the emergence of Bennett, Ron Riley and Isaac Burton, the Sun Devils have developed into a team that is an NCAA lock. Both Owes and Stoudamire reflected on the evolution of the rivalry since their first UA season.

"The thing I always think back to is my first year, when we played them up there," Owes said. "I think we had more fans up there than they did. When we scored a basket it'd be louder than when they scored a basket."

"I always thought Arizona State was always one of those tougher teams," Stoudamire said. "I thought they could put it together, even when I was a freshman, (I thought) that they could be good then."

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