Geary makes a point, pacing Arizona's win Overlooked guard directs 87-73 victory over Iowa

Ncaa Tournament

March 18, 1996|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

TEMPE, Ariz. - All weekend, Reggie Geary was an afterthought in the point guard theme that dominated the NCAA West Regional here.

There was Jacque Vaughn, the second-team All-American from Kansas. There was Steve Nash, the Canadian wizard from Santa Clara. There was Shawnta Rogers, the 5-foot-3 wunderkind from George Washington.

And, if the conversation lasted that long, there was Geary, the talkative guard who directs traffic in Arizona's racehorse offense.

Did he feel slighted? You bet.

"I definitely do," Geary said. "We're a Top 10 team. I've been a contributing factor. Want me to defend? I think I'm the best defender in the nation. Want me to play offense? I can knock down the three."

Geary did both yesterday, and Arizona, playing virtually in its back yard, knocked Iowa right out of the NCAA tournament, 87-73.

The 6-foot-2 senior delivered what may have been the best performance of his career: 16 points, 13 assists, only one turnover against Iowa's pressing defense, two blocked shots, two steals.

Knock down a three? He knocked down three in five tries.

Defense? He hounded Iowa's Andre Woolridge into a 6-for-17 shooting game and five turnovers.

Top 10 team? The third-seeded Wildcats (26-6) are in the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years. They'll play second-seeded Kansas in the regional semifinal in Denver Friday.

Arizona played almost a perfect game against Iowa. It used its quickness to break the Iowa traps, and it beat the more physical Hawkeyes on the boards, 42-36.

Most of Arizona's success inside was due to much-traveled Ben Davis, a 6-9 forward who became a center in January when Joe Blair was declared academically ineligible.

Davis, who had pit stops at Kansas, Florida and Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College before arriving in Tucson, Ariz., last season, had 17 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots.

But it was the inspired play of Geary that turned on a heavily Arizona-flavored crowd of 12,441 at Arizona State's Activity Center.

"I think Reggie has been shortchanged," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "This guy's the heart and soul of our team. I've been fortunate to have a lot of great competitors, but I never had one as great as Reggie's been."

Geary's on-court persona sometimes has overshadowed his game.

"I still talk a lot," he said. "I'm not talking to opposing players or fans, I'm talking to my own team. I've got to be a coach on the floor for our team. I bite my tongue a lot more. I'm at my best when I can keep everybody in the game."

Geary hit back-to-back threes in the middle of a 29-10 run that broke the game open for Arizona. The Hawkeyes (23-9) twice got the deficit under 10, but could get no closer than seven. They were less than happy about having to play Arizona in front of what essentially was a home crowd.

"You can't call this a neutral site by any means," said Iowa's Kenyon Murray. "I think that was a big factor from the beginning."

Coach Tom Davis suggested the officials were influenced by the crowd, but stopped short of blaming the loss on location.

"This wasn't desirable, and it wasn't the best situation," Davis said. "We understand that. If you moan and groan, it's not going to help your ballclub. That's reality, and we've got to learn to play better and play tougher and play through different things."

The Hawkeyes, the last remaining Big Ten team, will have to wait until next season.

Pub Date: 3/18/96

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