Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats 25 years ago today: Second-half rally subdues ASU at McKale

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. 5, 1997, when Arizona defeated ASU 87-71 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 are writing for

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

DATELINE: Feb. 5, 1997, McKale Center

You could imagine the smile on the faces of UCLA and Stanford. Arizona losing by six points at halftime at McKale Center to ASU?

The 14th-ranked Wildcats, after falling short at Washington, seemed to be going through withdrawals tonight before burning the outmanned Sun Devils with their quickness and newfound tenacity.

“What was going through my mind at halftime? I was thinking about the Pac-10 championship slipping away,” Michael Dickerson said following the 87-71 victory in front of 14,338 fans, easily the loudest all year during Arizona’s second-half surge.

Arizona (14-5 overall, 7-3 in the Pac-10) can scoreboard watch now while preparing for a difficult non-conference test against Tulane in four days in the 7Up Shootout at Phoenix.

Embed from Getty Images

UCLA, in the conference lead with a 7-2 record, hosts Cal (6-3) and Stanford (6-3) in two important games coming up as well.

“We’re still in the race because we made up for one of our worst halves with one of our best,” Arizona assistant coach Jim Rosborough said. “Our thought process at halftime is we stunk. Maybe the moral we can take from this is if we get out and get after people with our quickness, we could be an even better team.”

With 18:54 left in the game, ASU took a 39-32 lead on a Roger Farrington dunk. But like a surge of electricity — from Arizona’s quickest lineup and a vociferous crowd — the Wildcats bolted to a 49-41 lead with 15:35 remaining behind a 17-2 run.

After the Wildcats trailed 36-30 at halftime, Arizona coach Lute Olson started the second half with guards Mike Bibby, Jason Terry and Miles Simon, wing player Dickerson and 6-foot-8-inch forward Bennett Davison.

“We wanted to get as much pressure on them as we could,” Olson said. “It’s a strenuous way to play. I saw a lot of fatigue on ASU’s part.”

The same lineup trimmed a 10-point deficit to three points in the last three minutes against Washington three days ago, but it was too late.

Tonight, the answered the call at the right time.

Behind a suffocating full-court pressure defense, with their quickness, the Wildcats forced nine turnovers in the run, including six consecutively. Arizona scored 14 points off those turnovers.

“We were capable of beating their press, but we didn’t,” said ASU guard Jeremy Veal, the standout of the game with 27 points on 9-for-18 shooting. “It was like the next thing you, we were down by 10.”

Simon, Dickerson and Bibby spearheaded the effort, combining for 17 points in the run. Simon had seven points and a couple of steals, and he also assisted Dickerson on a layup off a turnover. Dickerson and Bibby each had five points in that spurt.

When Simon, who was bothered by back spasms against Washington, he was replaced by Jason Lee with 13:40 remaining, the McKale crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Simon looked his most energetic since rejoining the team for the first ASU game on Jan. 11. He pumped his fists in the air. He gestured for the crowd to get to its feet. After the loss to Washington, the Arizona coaching staff said the Wildcats needed to show more tenacity, and Simon delivered.

“I took it upon myself to get us going,” Simon said. “That’s my job. That’s what I need to do game in and game out.”

— 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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
To Top