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. 25, 1997, when Arizona defeated Oregon 88-66 at McKale Center to complete a sweep of Oregon State and the Ducks that weekend. 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. 25, 1997, McKale Center
For Jason Terry, everything begins and ends with defense.
Yet, it’s what’s in between that has Arizona coaches, teammates and fans raving.
The sophomore guard from Seattle gives Arizona that athletic boost and fire. And he’s a player who can provide so much.
There hasn’t been a game this season for the Wildcats in which he hasn’t played at less than 100 percent.
In Arizona’s 88-66 victory over Oregon tonight at McKale Center, Terry scored 11 points, had five assists and one steal. This is after he had 16 points and seven assists against Oregon State in a 99-48 win a couple of days ago.
”The best example of how critical Jason was to us was when Oregon closed the gap (to 12) and he went out and made some great plays and got us going,” said Arizona coach Lute Olson, whose team moved up a spot to third in the Pacific 10 Conference standings with the sweep of the Oregon schools.
Tenth-ranked UA is 5-2 in the conference and 12-4 overall.
Terry, a sophomore, has been a big part of that record. He’s UA’s unsung hero, perhaps because he’s wearing a number of hats on this year’s team. He’s the team’s defensive stopper; the point guard when freshman Mike Bibby isn’t running the team; and the off guard when Bibby is in.
”I think he’s a versatile guy, just as the other guys are,” UA assistant coach Jessie Evans said. ”On the defensive end he gets the steals. And with everything else he’s had to step up. That was the x factor of not having Miles Simon in there at the beginning (because of academics). It made Jason step up. It made Mike Bibby step up and Michael Dickerson step up and assume bigger roles. That was a positive when Miles was out. The good thing was JT responded.”
So much so that Terry may be one of the more underrated players in the league. He went into the Oregon games as the league leader in steals at 2.8 a game (he’s now at 2.6); he’s among the leaders in free-throw shooting at 78.4 percent; and among the leaders in assists at 5.1 a game.
”He’s become more of an all-around player,” said Simon, who had 11 points and nine assists. ”His defense has always been there. But he’s been able to pick up his scoring because he gets steals and turns them into layups.”
Easily, defense is his pride and joy. He’s Arizona’s busybody when facing opponents. It was his No. 1 goal coming into this season.
”I wanted to establish myself myself as the defensive stopper, to come in and shut down the other team’s main scorer,” said Terry, who helped on Kenya Wilkins tonight but was primarily on Jamal Lawrence (who had 18 points but had to take 15 shots, making only six, to get that many).
”I just felt that was my strength. And because Arizona needed that kind of guy I just thought I’d add that to the team. I do want to be that defensive stopper. And I’ve been real pleased with it (his performance).”
— Steve Rivera
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Michael Dickerson, mired in a 12-for-43 shooting slump entering the Oregon game, turned in a performance that was indicative of how the Wildcats improved after getting swept a week ago in Los Angeles against USC and UCLA.
After going 1 for 5 in the first half against the Ducks, he was 4 for 6 in the second half.
By going to the free-throw line 11 times in the second half, his aggressiveness really showed.
“At halftime, the coaching staff and all the players gave me the confidence I needed,” said Dickerson, who scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half of the 88-66 win over the Ducks.
“That meant a lot to me. It made me feel better about myself.”
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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.