EDITOR NOTE: AllSportsTucson.com will run a feature this basketball season highlighting what happened 20 years ago on that particular day commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Arizona Wildcats’ national championship. The next in the series is what occurred and what was written concerning the developments of Jan. 4, 1997, when Arizona defeated Stanford 76-75 at McKale Center. The information gathered is through articles written by beat reporters Steve Rivera (Tucson Citizen) and Javier Morales (Arizona Daily Star), who now are working together for AllSportsTucson.com
You can access previous stories in this series by clicking on this link.
DATELINE: Jan. 4, 1997, McKale Center
Brevin Knight was alone on top of the key, 27 seconds remaining and Stanford clinging to a one-point lead, when behind him came a plea.
Michael Dickerson, who had a hand in containing Knight for most of the game, walked by the Stanford senior, patted him on the backside and said, “Can you please miss it for us?”
The 85.5 percent free-throw shooter obliged, missing the front end of a one-and-one that set up another heart-stopping finish for No. 9 Arizona tonight in front of 14,342 at McKale Center.
“Yeah, I guess he did what I asked,” Dickerson said, smiling. “I guess I should thank him for that.”
Dickerson had fouled Knight with 27 seconds left to give the UA enough time to set up for a 3-pointer if Knight made the two free throws.
But the UA was thinking win after the free throw fell miraculously short.
Arizona set up a play for Dickerson off a screen. His jumper, perhaps too early with more than 10 seconds left, hit off the front end of the rim. Jason Lee scooped up the ball and heaved it from the corner.
The ball bounced high off the rim, and Bennett Davison went skyward to tip it in with five seconds left to put the UA up 76-75. Stanford could
Arizona (9-2 overall, 2-0 Pac-12) survived after blowing double-digit leads against Cal and Stanford in the first weekend of the Pac-12 season.
The Wildcats held on to beat the Golden Bears 81-80 two days ago after leading by 16 points. Mike Bibby made two free throws with 3.6 seconds left to put the Wildcats ahead. Arizona fans held their breath as Prentice McGruder’s uncontested shot in the lane at the buzzer rattled around the rim and out.
Arizona led by as many as 13 points tonight against the Cardinal.
“We could be 0-2 easily (in the Pac-10),” Dickerson said. “I look at it as a blessing. Luck was definitely on our side.”
— Javier Morales
* * * * *
A big game from its big men is just what the Arizona basketball team needed tonight.
The university’s big men, beaten up two days ago by Cal in the second half, played a major part in the Wildcats’ wild 76-75 victory over Stanford in yet another fight-to-the-finish battle in the Pacific 10 Conference.
Arizona’s inside game withstood what could be the best opposition the Pac-10 can offer (Tim Young, Pete Sauer, Mark Seaton) in terms of height and numbers – and survived. Young (12 points, six rebounds) was a non-factor, as were the rest of Stanford’s big men.
”The guys have been up and down,” said Arizona assistant Phil Johnson, who works with UA’s big men. ”But when you have an All-American in a guy 7 foot, 260 pounds (Young) and you outplay him, that’s doing a great job. Whether that happens on a consistent basis, I don’t know.”
What he does know is that Arizona’s big men have taken their lumps and have fared fairly well, helping No. 9 Arizona to a sweep of Cal and Stanford. The 2-0 league record marks the first time the Wildcats have been in that position since the 1992-93 season.
What the win over Stanford did for UA’s inside game was to strengthen the belief that the Wildcat big men can play when it matters. Tonight’s victory proved there is something to Arizona besides its perimeter game.
Arizona’s front court denied Young and his crew a chance to gain control inside.
”There’s no doubt they’re getting tested, but you can see that they’re getting better,” Johnson said. ”But you know I’m not satisfied.”
And neither are the players. Donnell Harris knows he’s been inconsistent, and A.J. Bramlett knows he can score and do more. But they, too, can see their progression and its importance to the team.
”I think we’re doing pretty well,” said Bramlett, who had eight points and five rebounds against Stanford. ”And we’ve done well lately. Donnell has been having good games, and there are times when I do, too. Now, if we can only have a couple of games where we’re pretty good together and be on the same page and we’ll be pretty good.”
What’s helped to this point is the play of Bennett Davison, who has had a major impact on Arizona’s inside game. Against Stanford, the junior college transfer came out of nowhere to tip in the winning basket off a missed shot by Jason Lee.
”He’s like a pogo stick in terms of the quickness in which he gets up,” Arizona coach Lute Olson said of Davison’s jumping ability and knack for getting rebounds. ”The times when he’s not a factor is when he hasn’t made the offside crash to the glass.”
Tonight, he proved to be everywhere, picking up a game-high 12 rebounds and scoring 16 points. And he, too, sees Arizona getting better inside.
— Steve Rivera
Former UA forward Tom Tolbert, in Tucson over the last two days as a radio analyst for the game, said he was impressed with Arizona’s inside game in part because its players do what they’re asked.
”It’s obvious the outside guys run the show, but that being said, Arizona will need those big guys to bang and come up big from game to game,” Tolbert said. ”If they are active – and they were – that’s the biggest compliment I can give a big man. And you can see that they don’t give up on the ball.
”What they have to realize is that their scoring will have to come off offensive rebounding.”
— Steve Rivera
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.