Another injury plagues UA's lineup as Blair sprains ankle

By Monty Phan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Last week, it got bad for the 12th-ranked Arizona men's basketball team when junior reserve Corey Williams went down with an eye injury during practice.

Tuesday, it went from bad to worse.

Starting center Joseph Blair suffered an ankle injury during practice two days ago when he landed on teammate Ben Davis' foot. Steve Condon, the team trainer, qualified Blair as "questionable" or "doubtful" for Saturday's game against Arizona State.

Blair said that sounds about right.

All head coach Lute Olson could do was shake his head.

"I'd say we'd have to list Joseph as questionable (for Saturday's game)," Olson said. "The swelling has gone down considerably today. There's no way of knowing until they can see how he responds to additional treatments."

It's been the kind of season coaches have nightmares about for the Wildcats (23-6 overall, 13-4 in the Pacific 10 Conference), who were without Williams for last weekend's road sweep of the Washington schools. Earlier in the season, they lost freshman Miles Simon for four weeks when he suffered a dislocated finger; starting guard Reggie Geary was hampered for close to six weeks with an ankle injury; and key reserve Ben Davis was lost for the first semester due to a problem with transfer credits.

"Since the first week in January it seems like it's just been one adjustment after another," Olson said. "Actually probably the whole year, because we thought we had Ben Davis for the season and then suddenly we don't have him. That was a little bit unsettling. Then you get him back and Reggie gets hurt the first weekend in January, and then Miles basically out for five weeks with that injury.

"We've been lucky some other years too where we've stayed healthy, but our good luck in the past has sort of caught up with us."

And the Award goes to...: The big debate in the Pac-10 is not over who will win the conference, because UCLA has already wrapped that up. It does, however, involve the Wildcats and the Bruins, or, more specifically, Damon Stoudamire and Ed O'Bannon. Or, more specifically, who is better.

"I think both of them have had great years," Olson said.

"There's no question a case can be made for both of them. (O'Bannon) has had a lot of national exposure. But the guy here hasn't been too bad either."

In truth, it's a tough call. Stoudamire is currently averaging 23.0 points and 7.4 assists per game, tops in the Pac-10. Only one player has led the league in both those categories Oregon State's Gary Payton, during the 1989-90 season. The disadvantage for Stoudamire? He's in Tucson.

O'Bannon, however, is in Los Angeles, where his 20.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for the top-ranked Bruins attract more than just the L.A. writers' attention.

"The advantage that Ed has is that he's in a media center where he gets a lot of publicity," Olson said.

During the last five games, Stoudamire has outplayed O'Bannon, but just barely. Arizona's guard has averaged over 30 points during the stretch run, including a triple-double and a 40-point outburst.

Comparatively, UCLA's forward has averaged 28 points over the same span, but all five games have been Bruin victories. Arizona is 4-1, it's lone loss to UCLA.

The Best Ever?: Surprisingly, Arizona's double-overtime, comeback victory over Washington State last Thursday night when the Wildcats outscored the Cougars 17-6 in the final 1:40 to send the game into overtime was not the most impressive comeback in Olson's career.

Olson said his most impressive was when he coached for Iowa, in a game at Bradley.

"When I was at Iowa and we played at Bradley, (that) was the most unbelievable one," Olson said. "We were down four or five points with four or five seconds to go, with them shooting a free throw and we won it in regulation by four."

Here's how: Bradley, at the free-throw line, missed its second attempt, then committed an over-the-back foul. Iowa then went to the line, making both shots. They then stole the Bradley's inbounds pass and scored, tying the game. Bradley called a timeout, but were assessed a technical foul resulting in two free throws because the team had no timeouts left. Iowa made the two free throws, then scored again when it was awarded the ball after the technical foul.

"I think that one was sort of in a class by itself," Olson said.

Indeed.

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