Day 3 (May 15, 2002)
CANBERRA, Australia - The University of Arizona men's basketball team was up to its old tricks again, as the Wildcats erased a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit to earn a 101-99 win over the Canberra All-Stars Wednesday evening at Tuggeranong Southern Cross Stadium.
Trailing 79-67 entering the fourth quarter, Will Bynum and Luke Walton scored 20 of Arizona's 34 points in the final period to help the team earn the two-point win. Bynum hit two key buckets in the game's final 2:28 to propel the team to victory, including a trey with 34 seconds remaining that gave the team the lead for good.
The come-from-behind win came in the team's first game of a 10-game tour of Australia, and marked the team's seventh second half, come-from-behind victory dating back to the 2001-02 collegiate season.
"This was a good win for us tonight," said Arizona head coach Lute Olson, who acted as an observer in this contest. "It was obvious that we were a step slow in reacting to things due to the travel, but it was nice to see the guys make the effort and come from behind. Will and Luke were huge for us in the fourth quarter."
Facing a team comprised mostly of Australian N.B.A. and N.B.L. players, the Wildcats looked sluggish for most of the evening, especially on the glass. The All-Stars outrebounded UA, 35-23, in the first half, including a 17-4 advantage on the offensive glass. Arizona also committed 12 first-half turnovers, which helped put the team in a 53-47 deficit at the half.
Simply put, Arizona needed to do a better job on the boards and take care of the ball in the second half if it was going to have a chance to win. That's exactly what happened, as the squad posted a 35-17 rebound advantage in the second half and limited Canberra to just three offensive boards after the break.
"We told the guys to just relax and do their jobs in the second half," said assistant coach Rodney Tention, who handled the head coaching duties Wednesday night. "Once we rebounded and took care of the ball, we were able to do some good things in there."
Despite some positive efforts early in the second stanza, Arizona still found itself down by 12 points with just 12 minutes remaining. Keyed by a Walton three-point play, Arizona opened the decisive fourth quarter on a 14-0 run to get back in the game. All told, UA held Canberra without a field goal for 5:12. A Bynum trey at the 8:23 mark gave Arizona its first lead of the game at 81-79.
From there the game see-sawed back and forth for the next six minutes with the All-Stars actually taking a 95-93 lead with 3:32 to go before Bynum answered with a layup to tie the score.
It was another positive step for Bynum, who finished with a team-high 21 points and felt good about logging 28 minutes and helping to make a difference in the outcome. "For me, it's all about playing," he said. "It felt good to know that I was going to get some minutes and Coach Tention allowed me to have a little freedom and to feel comfortable out there. Hitting those shots late, especially the jumpers, sure felt good."
Arizona returns to the court on Thurs., May 16, against the Sturt Sabres. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Pasadena Stadium in Adelaide, and the contest is sold out.
As further proof of the reach of the University of Arizona's fan support, there were at least five people in attendance Wednesday night wearing the Wildcat Cardinal and Navy. Included in that group was Mark Croft, who coincidentally traveled with the team from Tucson. Croft could be heard playing "Bear Down Arizona" on a kazoo just prior to tip-off and at halftime.
Almost to a man, the players have noticed just how friendly the Australian people are. Well, it seems that they Aussies have a sense of humor as well...
Center Channing Frye was eating dinner in a restaurant Tuesday evening when a waitress brought an appetizer to the table. Upon looking at the concoction of sun dried tomato and olive on garlic toast, Frye hesitantly asked the waitress just exactly that was.
The waitress replied, "It's ground kangaroo parts served over toast."
"Oh, that's gross," Frye responded.
The joke must be a common one pulled on unsuspecting tourists, because the waitress immediately burst into laughter, as did several others nearby when she shared the story with them, before informing Frye of the actual ingredients.
It certainly didn't slow Frye down, as he quickly proceeded to eat the appetizer in question.
Prior to Wednesday's game, Coach Olson led the team on a quick sightseeing tour of Canberra, the Australian capital. The team took in Governor General's mansion, the Telestra Tower atop Black Mountain, as well as a tour of Embassy Row and a look at Australia's governmental complex.
Day 2 (May 14, 2002)
CANBERRA, Australia - The guys have adjusted very quickly to the comforts of life in Australia. To be honest, could there be many places that are as travel friendly to a group of college-aged Americans?
The only major hurdle seems to be that Australians drive on the left (or "wrong" as is so often heard on the team bus) side of the road and the metric system. Leave it to veteran Rick Anderson to get caught up in both in just one taxi ride.
After a dinner in town with managers Tony Mikla and John Castles, the trio was attempting to catch a taxi back to the hotel when Rick fell behind. Tony and John grabbed a cab and were waiting for Rick in the back seat. Suddenly, Rick comes running around the corner and approaches the car on the left side and shouts, "Hey, we're going to have to get the next one guys. Someone already has this cab."
To which John replies, "Rick, that's the driver. Get in."
The comedy didn't stop there. The metric system would be Anderson's next attempt at his own unique brand of humor.
Speed limit signs in Australia are white with a red circle that features the posted limit in the middle. Admittedly, you do a bit of a double-take when you see one for the first time.
On the ride back, Anderson looked up and saw that the driver was doing about 80 k.p.h. and exclaimed, "Man, you can do 80 on this road!?! Wow!"
This time it was Mikla's turn to play the straight man. "Rick," he said, "that's kilometers. We're going about 50 miles per hour."
"Yeah," Anderson replied quickly to save face, "it feels like 50. That's what I thought."
Anderson did admit to liking the Australian surroundings. When asked if he would ever consider playing here professionally once his hoop carrer in the States is over, he replied, "Oh yeah. I love it here...it's just like being in California. I feel like I'm at home."
With those hurdles cleared, the team participated in a pair of workouts Tuesday at the Australian Institute of Sport. The morning session also featured players from the Australian U-18 national team. The two teams split up into perimeter and inside players and worked out together for about 45 minutes.
After lunch with their Australian counterparts (and an hour of watching the Dallas-Sacramento NBA Playoff game), the Wildcats returned to the court for a 60-minute scrimmage. It's the team's final tuneup before tomorrow evening's tour-opening game.
The team seemed to enjoy the atmosphere around the AIS, which is an educationally-based training ground for Australia's finest athletes, ranging in age from about 16-19. The athletes, who are given full scholarships to attend, go to school and train year round in each of about 25 Olympic sports.
"It's really kind of cool here," said center Channing Frye. "They train and build athletes here like Rocky.
Day 1 (May 13, 2002)
SYDNEY/CANBERRA, Australia - It was 5:43 p.m. Saturday evening in Tucson. The United Airlines plane was just lifting off, which signaled the start of the University of Arizona men's basketball team's 23-day journey "Down Under."
Coach Lute Olson was sitting near the front of the plane flipping through the business section of a newspaper. Somewhere in the middle forward Andrew Zahn was explaining to someone how to use a travelers cheque. In the back, assistant coach Josh Pastner was already asleep, as he always seems to do in a moving vehicle on these road trips.
It took less than five minutes for everyone on the trip to assume their usual road trip personas since we were last together in March. But this was no ordinary plane trip. The trip from Los Angeles to Sydney alone was announced at 13 hours and 44 minutes...Thirteen hours and 44 minutes? That's more elapsed time than it takes the Wildcats to make every Pac-10 road swing combined. It took so long, we lost a whole day on the way over.
"The flight wasn't so bad," said forward Isaiah Fox. "The movies weren't bad (there were four) and I got to eat a few times (two full meals and a midnight snack were served). But mostly I just slept."
After touching down in Sydney just after 6 a.m. local time (it's 17 hours ahead of Tucson), the team had to endure a four-hour layover before it reached its final destination in Canberra. Fate seemingly intervened when the Lakers-Spurs NBA Playoff game was being shown live on a television in the terminal. Most of the guys slumped down to watch. It was just like being back home.
"We travel 7,500 miles on a plane and we end up watching basketball in the airport," quipped guard Jason Ranne. "It's just like a regular season road trip, except that here the NBA games are on ESPN. It seems like nothing has changed."
The first day's travel went off without a hitch, mostly due to the efforts of Ryan Hansen, coordinator of basketball operations, Tony Mikla, senior manager and John Castles, senior video coordinator. This trio makes sure all of the guys get checked in, the equipment gets where it needs to be, and all of the logistics are handled.
"Everything went pretty smoothly," said Mikla. "We packed most of the gear in smaller bags to be able to handle all of the commuter flights we'll be taking. We had to put a little more thought into this trip, but it's turned out all right."
All told, the trip from Tucson to the day's final destination, Canberra, took just over 24 hours. Fall has arrived here, as the team was met with temperatures in the mid-50s and rich fall colors all around. Sydney was beautifully clear this morning with a picturesque fog settled over the skyline. It's even a raining here in Canberra, which makes for a very pleasant change of scenery.
There won't be much time to rest, as the players have a weight-lifting session scheduled for this afternoon and practices start tomorrow. It won't be long before the Cats are back in action on Wednesday night.
The G'day Diary is compiled by UA associate media relations director Richard Paige.