Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats 25 years ago today: Fiesta Bowl Classic title claimed in rout of Penn

EDITOR NOTE: will run 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 Dec. 30, 1996, when ninth-ranked Arizona beat Penn 93-51 in the championship game of the Fiesta Bowl Classic at McKale Center. The information gathered is through articles written by beat reporters Steve Rivera (Tucson Citizen) and Javier Morales (Arizona Daily Star), who now write for

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

DATELINE: Dec. 30, 1996, McKale Center

Arizona forward Michael Dickerson has advice for the Wildcat worrywarts: Don’t panic, because he’s not — at least when his shot is not falling.

“I think I kind of spoiled people when I had three 30-point games,” said Dickerson, referring to his early-season offensive successes and a major reason why the University of Arizona is in the top 10 at No. 9. “I think God spoiled me when he let me have three 30-point games. Now I expect everyone else expects me to score 30 every night. And when I have a 20-point night, I feel bad as though I didn’t do too much.”

His 21-point effort today — just two points under his season average — was more than enough for Arizona as it had its second consecutive blowout game in the 1996 Bank One Fiesta Bowl Classic.

Today, Dickerson led four UA players in double figures as the Wildcats beat up on Penn, 93-51, at McKale Center. Arizona moves to 7-2 as it opens Pac-10 play Jan. 2 against California at McKale Center.

The bright spot for Dickerson today may not have been his point total but his efficency getting there. He took just 13 shots, making eight. And that was after going 4 for 20 against Michigan for a season-low nine points 10 days ago. Dickerson was 4 for 16 two days ago against Robert Morris and finished with 20 points.

Against Robert Morris, Dickerson just smirked when asked whether it was time to panic.

Today, he was all smiles after receiving the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.

“It means a lot to me because it means I was doing something well,” Dickerson said. “I give all the credit to my teammates for that award. They got me the ball when I was open. I just took the shots. And (today) it felt good.”

One reason was because he didn’t panic; another because over the past couple of days, he’s been working overtime on his shot.

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“The thing with shooters is when they shoot, they have to snap the wrists through and not try to steer the ball,” Arizona coach Lute Olson said. “And I thought during this so-called slump, he was trying to steer the ball.

“The difference between in and out and a swish is snapping the wrist. If you’re guiding it, that’s when it goes in and out.”

His teammates never doubled Dickerson’s game.

“He’s the type of player who has to take as many shots as he does in order to help us win,” said Jason Terry, who had 19 points, nine assists and four steals today. “He’s the go-to guy. He’s going to miss shots. He may take four and miss those four, but he’s going to get his next six.”

Named to the Fiesta Bowl All-Tournament team were MVP Dickerson; Bennett Davison and Terry, Arizona; Kenyan Weaks, Florida; and Michael Jordan and Paul Romanczuk, Penn.

Arizona walk-on guard Jason Lee, who scored 15 points in his first game as a Wildcat when they beat Robert Morris, followed that performance shooting 5 of 6 from the field and finishing with 11 points against Penn.

— Steve Rivera

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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