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Edney Leaves Them Tongue-Tied

“Thanks for making it interesting again,” an Arizona fan, trying to be funny, said to Jim Harrick as the UCLA coach was leaving the arena here Thursday night, a 71-61 winner.

“Oh, you can afford it,” Harrick said back.

The guy was insinuating that UCLA hadn’t given Arizona much competition in the McKale Center in recent seasons. But who had? The Wildcats had won 112 of 115 games in this building since 1987.

They were counting on winning this one as well. What they didn’t count on was Damon Stoudamire, Arizona’s human tattoo parlor, being totally outplayed by Tyus Edney of UCLA, in a matchup between two of college basketball’s best guards.

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Edney stuck to Stoudamire like ink. There were shots Damon took that landed somewhere in New Mexico. From three-point range he made one of 12, the kind of shooting you usually see only in halftime contests involving mascots and spectators. Tyus tied him up and held him down.

Not only that, but the littlest Bruin pulled down nine rebounds and scored 19 points, until, as Harrick noted, “They finally had to take Damon off him.”

This was a good night for Edney to show what he can do. There is an award given yearly to the best player 6 feet tall or under. UCLA is pushing Edney for it.

He and the Flying O’Bannon Brothers have been carrying UCLA’s fourth-ranked club for a while. Some people, however, still seem to ignore Edney as though he isn’t in Stoudamire’s league.

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After this game ended on Charles O’Bannon’s dunk and funky dance, brother Ed O’Bannon was asked to accompany Edney to the postgame interview on national TV. At the last second, Ed left Edney there by himself, feeling he deserved the attention.

Edney spoke of keeping the pressure on Stoudamire, how his game plan was “just basically to stay in his face.”

See any frustration on that face?

“I think he might have been frustrated a little,” Edney said.

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At which point Harrick jumped in, saying, “I can always tell when a guy’s frustrated, and Damon wasn’t frustrated during the game. I think he was after the game.”

Rarely have the Bruins seen so many Arizonans so subdued.

Edney later called it the best feeling in the world, hearing the McKale Center turn as silent as the McKale Public Library. Added Ed O’Bannon: “I’ve never heard it that quiet. Our objective going in was more or less to keep the noise to a minimum.”

Last time they left L.A., UCLA’s basketball players flew up to Oregon and almost didn’t get out alive. Their coach lost his cool, the Bruins lost the game and then came the hard part--getting back safely to the locker room. Duck fans went nuts.

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For this trip to Arizona, the fans figured to be an even bigger factor. Instead, a crowd of 14,257 that included pro golfers John Daly, Payne Stewart and Phil Mickelson, in town for the Northern Telecom Open, saw last season’s Final Four team take its worst beating at home since a 12-point loss to Tennessee in 1983.

Edney came out smoking. He scored the game’s first two baskets, one on a twisting layup, the other uncontested on an outlet feed from George Zidek. From that point on, neither team shot well, but the important thing was keeping Stoudamire from getting hot.

“Check this,” Harrick suggested, “but all through their career, seven out of eight times, I think Tyus has had better stats than Damon when they played one another. I’m pretty sure Lute (Olson, Arizona’s coach) made that statement.

“Damon always gets picked ahead of Tyus for one thing or another. You know there’s always a lot of political things going on with that stuff. But I don’t think he’s better. They’re probably even.”

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Not this time, they weren’t.


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