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 March 2, 1997, when Arizona beat Washington 193-82 at McKale Center, the Wildcats’ third win in a row after losing three of six games. 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: March 2, 1997, McKale Center
Michael Dickerson stared at the stat sheet with a perplexed look tonight, similar to the appearance of whoever tried to guard him for Washington.
“They have me down for only seven rebounds?” he said. “Man, I thought I had more than that.”
That is how far he has come, and obviously it has a positive impact on his teammates, who in their three-game winning streak have mirrored his determination.
Until recently, he would have been happy just to score 27 points, like he did in No. 15 Arizona’s 103-82 win over Washington in front of 14,421 fans in the season finale at McKale Center.
Again playing in sync with Miles Simon, Dickerson was all over the place, grabbing four offensive boards, running down loose balls and occasionally defending the Huskies’ point guard.
“In the last couple of games, Michael has flat out played like I’ve never seen him before,” Arizona assistant coach Jim Rosborough said. “He’s showing so much confidence, and it’s happening at the right time.”
If Dickerson and the Wildcats crash the boards at Stanford and Cal next week like they did tonight, the UA could end up on a nice upward trend coach Lute Olson has talked about.
Dickerson spearheaded an effort in which the Wildcats grabbed a season-high 28 offensive boards. Simon, who had 20 points, corralled three offensive boards.
“The offensive rebounds by Miles and Michael is such a critical number for us,” Olson said. “It has not been a strength of theirs, but it has to be. They both have made good progress with their mindset of getting to the boards.”
Dickerson said his recent surge — 29 points at Oregon State, 32 points against Washington State and 27 tonight — is related to encouraging words his father, Willie, said last week.
His dad attended the UA’s games in Oregon and he saw his son struggling with his confidence against the Ducks on Feb. 20. Dickerson scored only 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting from the field and grabbed only one rebound in the Wildcats’ loss.
“My dad kept telling me to step it up, not only for this year, but also going into next year,” said Dickerson, a Seattle native who scored 50 points in the two games against the Huskies this year. “I feel like in the last couple of games I have taken my game to a different level and it’s because of the confidence my dad gave me.”
— Javier Morales
* * * * *
The NCAA Tournament is still two weeks away, but already Arizona is getting into March Madness.
One game and two days into the season’s final month, Arizona rolled out the red carpet for the Washington Huskies and then rolled them over, 103-82, at McKale Center in this season’s home finale tonight.
With one weekend trip to the Bay area left, everyone seems to be pointing to the tournament.
”They can be tough,” Washington coach Bob Bender said of Arizona in the tourney. ”With the quickness and the athleticism they attack you with, they can put put some people out.”
Arizona’s magic might have started tonight. UW’s lopsided loss might keep it out of the tourney when teams are picked Sunday.
The Wildcats put on a basketball clinic and showed the Huskies what it takes to get to the tournament.
Mike Bibby showed how to shoot with precision. Jason Terry showed how to pass. Michael Dickerson showed them everything. Then Arizona showed them the door in a pleasing-to-the-eye victory.
When you look at Arizona’s box score and note the players in double digits, you’ll see there was a party of five – five Arizona players who had some sort of double, either points or assists.
• Dickerson, on top of his game again, hit for 27 points.
• A.J. Bramlett had 11 points.
• Bibby and Miles Simon hit for 20 points each.
• And Terry added a career-high 11 assists.
The team had a season-high 30 assists and 28 offensive rebounds.
The numbers capped a terrific week from the Wildcats as they scored more than 100 points in each game. UA beat Washington State, 101-77, in the previous game.
”It just wasn’t a weekend thing,” Arizona assistant Jessie Evans said of the team’s good play. ”We wanted to start to pick up the level of our play. We told the players that the next one is always important.
”Nothing will mean anything unless you win the next one. It’s a buildup, and what we’re doing is treating it like a tournament, because every team we play is trying to get into the tournament. We have to rise to the occasion.”
— 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.