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. 18, 1997, when Arizona lost to UCLA 84-78 in overtime in Los Angeles. 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. 18, 1997, Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles
Time and again, UCLA penetrated the lane tonight, found an open player and burned Arizona with either a basket or a foul.
In a game that seemed so difficult and frustrating for the Wildcats, it was that simple in an 84-78 overtime loss to the surging Bruins, who are erasing the “me first” image by winning seven of their last eight games.
“We got outplayed once again, said Michael Dickerson, who followed a miserable performance in a loss to USC two days ago by shooting 5 of 16 from the field, including 0 for 4 from 3-point range tonoight. “We better do something or else we’ll lose a lot more. I don’t know what’s going on.”
The sixth-ranked Wildcats were swept in Los Angeles for the first time since 1987. UCLA beat its first ranked opponent this season.
Four Wildcats fouled out largely because of the Bruins’ aggressive style. Arizona had 29 fouls to the Bruins’ 16. The Wildcats attempted 21 fewer free throws, making 9 of 15 to UCLA’s 26 of 36 mark. UCLA was not assessed a foul the last 11 minutes, 9 seconds of the game, including overtime.
At the end of overtime, and following the final buzzer, Lute Olson was anything but smiles. He got into a spat with shot-clock operator Len Friedman about what he believed to be an error with more than a minute left in overtime.
After a miss in the lane by Cameron Dollar, J.R. Henderson’s follow shot ricocheted off the rim and Charles O’Bannon’s ensuing shot was blocked by Bennett Davison. Olson believed the shot clock was reset after the block.
The loss against USC two days previously included the first meeting between USC coach Henry Bibby and his son, Arizona freshman guard Mike Bibby. The relationship between the two is strained because the younger Bibby was raised by his mother Virginia.
Mike Bibby had only four points on 2 of 8 shooting against his father’s Trojans.
“There was so much pressure on the kid,” Olson said. “I thought he did a nice job defensively, but you could see the pressure was affecting him on the offensive end.”
— Javier Morales
* * * * *
Step away from the ledge. Put away those sharp objects. Take a couple of breaths and get refreshed.
That’s what Arizona is doing.
Although the Wildcat basketball team’s trip to southern California was more like a trip to the Tragic Kingdom than the Magic Kingdom, Arizona players are still optimistic about the rest of the Pacific 10 Conference season.
Tonight’s 84-78 overtime loss to UCLA at Pauley Pavilion wasn’t exactly a tragedy, but perhaps a turning point with 13 conference games remaining.
”It’s still early in the season,” Arizona coach Lute Olson said. ”We just have to build on what we’ve got.”
What they have is plenty of games ahead.
”It’s not the end of the world,” said Arizona’s Miles Simon, who did all he could against the Bruins with 23 points. ”It was a big game. What you have to do is come and play. That’s all.”
Arizona did come and play – for at least half the trip. Against USC, UA played as poorly as it seemingly could – and lost. Tonight, it played with determination – yet lost.
Arizona went to southern California looking for a sweep. Instead, it got swept, proving once again road wins in the league will be as rare and difficult as a UA rebound.
Today’s loss, coupled with the loss to USC, sent Arizona from first to fourth in the league. UA is 10-4 overall and 3-2 in the conference.
A free fall it wasn’t. Arizona has been able to recover from sweeps in California. A year ago, Arizona started 0-2 in the league after losses in the Bay area and managed to stay in the hunt all the way to the finish. In 1991-92, when UA was swept in southern California, the Wildcats finished 13-5 in the league, a record that this year may be good enough to win the title, league coaches say.
And in Arizona’s run to the Final Four in 1994, everyone had UA out of the title run after an improbable loss to Washington. UA wound up winning the league.
”It’s a long season and right now we’re in (fourth place),” Arizona’s Jason Terry said. ”What we have to do is go home and take care of business. We can’t slip up the rest of the way.”
Highly unlikely this year, yet attainable. Parity has brought the league to this point. Winning on the road will be like picking up a hitchhiker – you just never know.
— 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.