Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats 25 years ago today: Interior defense lacking in loss to Washington

EDITOR NOTE: is running a feature this basketball season highlighting what happened 25 years ago on that particular day commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Arizona Wildcats’ national championship. The next in the series is what occurred and what was written concerning the developments of Feb. 2, 1997, when Arizona lost to Washington 92-88 at Seattle. The information gathered is through articles written by beat reporters Steve Rivera (Tucson Citizen) and Javier Morales (Arizona Daily Star), who now are writing for

You can access previous stories in this series by clicking on this link.

DATELINE: Feb. 2, 1997, Seattle

Just when it looked like Arizona’s defense was fast becoming its staple for victories, Washington comes aolong and shoots it down like a Todd MacCulloch 2-footer.

The 10th-ranked Wildcats were primed for a win today, scoring the first seven points of the game, which seemed like a comfortable lead considering the way Arizona’s defensive pressure had rattled five straight opponents into more than 20 turnovers.

Washington, prone to turnovers, because it doesn’t have a clear-cut point guard, looked like it could be in for a long game. But in the end, Arizona was more unsettled in a 92-88 loss to the Huskies before a sellout crowd of 7,113 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

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“They were able to break our press effectively and get a lot of good looks at the basket, and that created problems for us,” Arizona coach Lute Olson said. “We had trouble stopping penetration, and they were able to find their big guys.

“That, along with our (42.4 percent) shooting, forced us to play catch-up. You don’t play catch-up on offense. You play it on defense, and they just kept beating us down there.”

The Wildcats (13-5, 6-3 Pac-10) out-rebounded Washington 46-34, but their interior players — Bennett Davison, A.J. Bramlett and Donnell Harris — only had one defensive rebound in the second half.

And Jason Terry, Mike Bibby and Michael Dickerson accounted for 60 of Arizona’s 88 points, meaning Davison, Bramlett, Harris and Miles Simon were practically non-existent offensively.

“We just couldn’t get anything going,” said Davison, who was assessed a technical foul for protesting a foul in the second half. “Their big guys were a little more aggressive. We didn’t do a good job of keeping the ball away from them.”

The 7-footers, MacCulloch and Patrick Femerling, combined to shoot 11 for 12 from the field.

Remember the problems on the L.A. trip, when centers Jelani McCoy of UCLA and David Crouse of USC combined to make each of their 11 attempts?

“We told our guys before the game that they had to come out with a take-charge attitude,” said Arizona assistant coach Phil Johnson, who oversees the interior players. “We’ve stressed that all along, that the guys have to be tougher. That’s our weakness. That’s our weakness as a team.”

Olson was quick to point out that Arizona had 27 offensive rebounds to Washington’s 10, “but I’m willing to bet they scored more poitns off their offensive boards than we did. We just couldn’t get it done.”

Washington, whick kept its NCAA tournament hopes alive at 12-5 and 5-4, committed 18 turnovers, 13 fewer than it had the other day against ASU. Jan Wooten, Donald Watts and Jamie Booker entered the game with almost as many turnovers as assists, but the finished with 18 assists and only eight turnovers.

And if they were getting the ball to MacCulloch, who was 8 for 9 from the field, they were finding Mark Sanford, who was 9 for 18 and finished with a game-high 26.

— Javier Morales

Arizona Wildcats 1996-97 Men's Basketball Schedule

11/22/96197 North Carolina

Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic
W 83–72Springfield (MA)
11/26/9611Northern ArizonaW 88–70McKale Center
11/30/961119 New MexicoL 84-77Albuquerque (NM)
12/7/96153 Utah

John Wooden Classic
W 69–61Anaheim (CA)
12/9/961513 TexasW 83–78McKale Center
12/14/968Jackson StateW 111–83McKale Center
12/21/9664 MichiganL 73-71 OTAuburn Hills (MI)
12/28/969Robert Morris

Fiesta Bowl Classic
W 118–54McKale Center

Fiesta Bowl Classic
W 93–51McKale Center
1/2/979CaliforniaW 81-80McKale Center
1/4/97921 StanfordW 76-75McKale Center
1/11/977Arizona StateW 92-84Tempe
1/16/976USCL 75-62Los Angeles
1/18/976UCLAL 84-78 OTLos Angeles
1/23/9711Oregon StateW 99-48McKale Center
1/25/9711OregonW 88-66McKale Center
1/30/9710Washington StateW 87-78Pullman (WA)
2/2/9710Washington L 92-88Seattle
2/5/9714Arizona StateW 87-71McKale Center
2/9/971421 Tulane

7Up Shootout
W 81-62Phoenix
2/13/971124 UCLAL 66-64McKale Center
2/15/9711USCW 101-77McKale Center
2/20/9713OregonL 78-72Eugene (OR)
2/22/9713Oregon StateW 74-64Corvallis (OR)
2/27/9715Washington StateW 100-86McKale Center
3/2/9715WashingtonW 103-82McKale Center
3/6/971223 Stanford L 81-80Palo Alto (CA)
3/8/9712CaliforniaL 79-77San Francisco
3/13/97413 South Alabama

NCAAT 1st Round
W 65-57Memphis
3/15/97412 College of Charleston

NCAAT 2nd Round
W 73-69Memphis
3/21/9741 Kansas

Sweet Sixteen
W 85-82Birmingham (AL)
3/23/97410 Providence

Elite Eight
W 96-92 OTBirmingham (AL)
3/29/9741 North Carolina

Final Four
W 66-58Indianapolis
3/31/9741 Kentucky

W 84-79 OTIndianapolis

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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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