Wildcats On Rebound After Rough Start
Jan. 22, 2001
TUCSON, Ariz. - The worst seems to be over for Arizona.
For 20 magnificent minutes against UCLA, coach Lute Olson's team lookedevery bit the powerhouse it was supposed to be when it was ranked No. 1 in thepreseason.
Arizona outscored UCLA 55-22 Saturday in the second half of an 88-63 rout ofthe Bruins that moved the Wildcats from 17th to 12th in the national rankings.
'When we play like that,' Luke Walton said, 'I don't think anybody canbeat us.'
The Wildcats were without their coach for five games after the death of hiswife of 47 years, Bobbi Olson, from ovarian cancer. He returned last week todirect Arizona to important and impressive home victories over USC and UCLA.
'It was a great week for us,' Olson said.
The Wildcats have won four in a row to improve to 5-1 in the Pac-10 and 13-5overall. No. 1 Stanford leads the conference at 5-0.
'We're back in the mix,' Olson said. 'Somebody needs to get Stanfordalong the way here, but I think that's a definite possibility with either ofthese two teams (UCLA and USC).'
Olson said it was important for his team and coaching staff that he get backto the sidelines. The Wildcats have endured NCAA suspensions of Loren Woods(six games) and Richard Jefferson (one game), as well as the death of Mrs.Olson, who served as a second mother to them.
'The biggest problem that we've had all year has been the instability ofeverything,' Olson said. 'We just haven't had the team together for a wholelot of games. When the team was together, then I wasn't there.
'... We've finally got a stable situation now where I think we can getourselves going on the roll that I think we should have.'
Tight, harassing defense - led by Walton and Jefferson - ignited thesecond-half blowout of the Bruins.
'It was the best half defensively we have played all year,' reserveforward Gene Edgerson said. 'We need to play like that all the time.'
Edgerson was strong off the bench following his week away from the team.Associate head coach Jim Rosborough told Edgerson to stay home from the trip toWashington State and Washington to assess his goals after apparentlycomplaining about a lack of playing time.
'Things are great,' Edgerson said. 'I was making something out ofnothing.'
Gilbert Arenas scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half for Arizona.Point guard Jason Gardner took 11 shots, all 3-pointers, and missed the first10. But the Wildcats rolled anyway.
Jefferson held UCLA's Jason Kapono to a season-low four points on 2-for-14shooting.
'I didn't do it by myself,' Jefferson said. 'Our team defense is comingtogether. I was just trying to make him catch it from farther out so it gavetime for our big guys to come up if he drove on me.'
Next up is a home game Wednesday against Arizona State, last in the Pac-10at 0-6. On Saturday, the Wildcats are host to No. 20 Texas in a nonconferencegame.
'We all stayed positive. We've stayed together,' Jefferson said. 'We havetoo many good people, good coaches and good players not to do well.'
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer