Arizona Basketball

Reminiscing Arizona’s marquee non-conference games in middle of conference play

The SEC/Big 12 Challenge and Sunday’s thrilling non-conference game between Virginia and Villanova brings to mind some of the classics during this time of year and February when Lute Olson was the head coach.

During the 24-year Olson era, Arizona played 32 non-conference games after the Pac-10 season started. In a three-year stretch from the 1988-89 season through the 1990-91 seasons, the Wildcats played three such games.

Because of the schedule demands of the Pac-12 tournament and most college basketball programs setting their non-conference schedules by the end of December, this kind of scenario is no longer the case for the Wildcats.

Sean Miller actually played in one of these games for Pitt on Jan. 25, 1992, when the Panthers traveled to McKale Center and lost 96-76. Miller had 13 points and an uncharacteristic six turnovers in that game against Khalid Reeves, Chris Mills and Co.

ESPN’s College GameDay crew spent some time on the subject of non-conference games in the middle of conference season yesterday and Jay Bilas and Jay Williams agreed more games like the Big 12/SEC challenge, such as the Kansas-Kentucky showdown, should be scheduled in late January and in February.

The following is one of the classics of when Arizona played a non-conference team in February from the 1988-89 season when the Wildcats with Sean Elliott defeated Duke and Danny Ferry in the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The list of the games Arizona played out of conference from 1985 to 2009 follows.

(1) at Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford, N.J.
(2) at Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford, N.J.
(3) at 7-Up Shootout, St. Petersburg, Fla.
(4) at 7-Up Shootout, Phoenix, Ariz
(5) at 7-Up Shootout, Tucson, Ariz
(6) at 7-Up Shootout, Phoenix, Ariz.
(7) at 7-Up Shootout, Phoenix, Ariz

Season Date Opponent W/L Score
1985-86 J18 at Miami (Fla.) W 81-74 OT
1986-87 J24 at Illinois L 82-63
1986-87 F7 Iowa L 89-80
1987-88 J30 Illinois W 78-70
1988-89 J21 Villanova W 75-67
1988-89 F12 at Oklahoma L 82-80
1988-89 F26 Duke (1) W 77-75
1989-90 J20 Oklahoma W 78-74
1989-90 J27 at Pittsburgh L 100-92
1989-90 F18 at Nevada-Las Vegas L 95-87
1990-91 J19 at Villanova W 72-64
1990-91 F17 Georgia Tech (2) L 62-56
1990-91 F24 Duke W 103-96 2 OT
1991-92 J25 Pittsburgh W 96-76
1991-92 F23 Temple (3) W 66-60
1992-93 J23 at New Orleans W 72-69
1992-93 F21 Cincinnati (4) W 70-60
1993-94 J8 Marquette (5) W 94-80
1994-95 J7 at Rhode Island W 82-67
1995-96 F11 Cincinnati (6) W 79-76
1996-97 F9 Tulane (7) W 81-62
1997-98 J18 New Mexico W 89-70
1998-99 J16 at New Mexico L 79-78
1998-99 F13 Louisiana State W 78-71
1999-00 J29 at Louisiana State L 86-60
2000-01 J27 Texas W 80-52
2001-02 J26 Connecticut L 100-98 OT
2002-03 J25 at Kansas W 91-74
2005-06 J28 at North Carolina L 86-69
2006-07 J27 North Carolina L 92-64
2007-08 J12 at Houston W 85-71
2008-09 J24 Houston W 96-90 OT

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! 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, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, 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.

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