TUCSON--UA's remarkable 35-3 basketball season of 1987-88 will rekindle memories again this weekend when the team is honored at the Lute Olson All-Star Classic dinner on Saturday as part of the big reunion game weekend.
The celebration concludes Sunday, Aug. 14, with the Lexus * Infiniti Shootout at 1 p.m. The regulation alumni basketball game at McKale Center will include many of the great names to wear an Arizona uniform, including a number of current NBA standouts.
ArizonaAthletics.com will provide free live stats of the alumni basketball game. Subscribers to All-Access, Arizona's premium multimedia service, will be able to watch postgame interviews with the players.
The ’88 season culminated in Arizona’s first Final Four appearance, and had few low spots as the Cats pounded opponents by an average score of 85-64 throughout the year, including a season-opening 133-78 victory over Duquesne. That victory was followed by notable wins the next two days over powerful No. 9 Michigan and No. 1 Syracuse squads to win the Great Alaska Shootout.
Five more December victories ?- including one against No. 3 Iowa on coach Lute Olson’s return to Iowa City, where he coached nine years ?- helped propel UA toward its first-ever No. 1 ranking, which it garnered after a 110-71 thumping of Washington shortly before Christmas.
A week or so later, the Cats hosted the year’s biggest holiday tournament in bringing No. 8 Florida, No. 9 Duke and a young Michigan State team to the Fiesta Bowl Basketball Classic. The Cats beat MSU by 20 points and then rallied behind Sean Elliott’s 31 points to top the Blue Devils, 91-85, in a raucous McKale Center.
A week later, 19,000 people in The Pit screamed for 40 minutes as the Lobos upended No. 1 Arizona, 61-59, to drop the Cats a few notches in the poll. But an eight-game winning streak in January saw the Wildcats back atop the polls for four weeks in January. The last in the streak was a 78-70 victory over a strong Illinois club.
Stanford gave Arizona its last regular-season loss on Feb. 4, as a rocking Maples Pavilion crowd helped the Cardinal beat UA, 82-74. It was a minor bump in the road, and the WIldcats reeled off eight league victories to cap the regular season, including a Pac-10 title clinching overtime victory at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on Feb. 20.
UA opened the Goodyear Pac-10 Tournament in McKale Center with a 24-point victory over California and a 14-point win over Stanford, setting up the title showdown with NCAA-bound Oregon State. Elliott was too much for the Beavers and UA expanded on a 42-28 halftime lead to win easily, 93-67. The victory set a Pac-10 record for victories in a season (31 and counting).
In the NCAA tournament, at Pauley, the No. 1-seeded Cats took it to Cornell, winning by 40 points in a 90-50 rout, then faced Seton Hall and its rugged Big East reputation. Anthony Cook poured in 20 points and UA held Seton Hall to 44 percent shooting to add another rout, 84-55 and earn a spot in the Sweet 16 at Seattle's Kingdome.
The Cats snapped out of a halftime tie with No. 17 Iowa in the Kingdome, smashing the Hawkeye press to score 27 points in transition in the second half for a convincing 99-79 victory. UA went 14 minutes without a turnover in the second stanza, playing some flawless hoops.
"One more to the Final Four!" was the resounding call by players in the locker room afterward, and UA was set to face vaunted No. 7 North Carolina with that objective on the line.
The Tar Heels played it their way and led UA in a low-scoring affair at the half, 28-26 -- only the second time all year that the Cats trailed at the break. But center Tom Tolbert rallied the troops, scoring 18 of his 21 points in the second period to back Elliott's 24 markers. Steve Kerr, the club's floor leader, chipped in 14 while Craig McMillan added nine and UA made a difficult task appear easy in a 70-52 victory that put a Pac-10 club in the Final Four for the first time since 1980.
The dream of a national championship to cap one of the best seasons for any team in NCAA history came to an end a week later in Kansas City. UA faced No. 4 Oklahoma. Using a strong inside game and a defense that thwarted UA's transition game, the Sooners took the air out of Arizona's attack, 86-78. Elliott scored 31 points but Anthony Cook's 16 and Tom Tolbert's 11 weren't enough to offset a bad shooting night by Kerr, who missed 11 shots.
More than 15,000 fans, however, were on hand in Arizona Stadium upon the team's return to Tucson, and they helped celebrate one of the most celebrated seasons in UA history.
Notes... UA did not lose in McKale Center in 1987-88, winning all 19 games to continue a year-old winning streak that would eventually extend to 71 games and end against UCLA in McKale in January, 1992... UA had a chance to tie the standing NCAA record of 37 victories in a season, but came up short in KC... The loss to the Sooners ended what was then a school-record 15-game winning streak.... UA's Sean Elliott was a consensus first-team All-America pick, with Steve Kerr earning second-team UA's Anthony Cook Sean Elliott and Steve Kerr each made the All-Pac-10 team, and Elliott was Pac-10 Player of the Year... Lute Olson was league Coach of the Year and was named National Coach of the Year by Basketball Times and Basketball Weekly, plus earned District 8 honors...
1988 Starting Lineup:
F Sean Elliott, junior
F Anthony Cook, junior
C Tom Tolbert, senior
G Steve Kerr, senior
G Craig McMillan
F/G Jud Buecher, sophomore
G Kenny Lofton, junior
G Harvey Mason, sophomore
C/F Joe Turner, senior
G Matt Muehlebach, freshman
F Craig Bergman, sophomore
C Sean Rooks, freshman (redshirted)
C/F Brian David, sophomore (injured)
C Mark Georgeson, freshman (injured/redshirted)