TUCSON, Ariz. ?- Team Lexus defeated Team Infiniti, 152-151, Sunday afternoon in front of 9,102 fans at McKale Center in the 2005 Lexus*Infiniti Shootout to cap the Lute Olson All-Star Classic.
A weekend of festivities honoring Arizona’s 1988 Final Four team and a jersey retirement ceremony honoring the 2000 national freshman of the year and 2003 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Player of the Year, Jason Gardner, concluded with Sunday’s exhibition game.
“This is a great opportunity for all of the guys to get together,” said Hall of Fame basketball coach Lute Olson. “They really look forward to coming back and you can see the kind of camaraderie that they have on the court, regardless if they played on the early teams or recently. They are good friends and they are proud to be involved with Arizona Basketball.”
While the game featured former players from the mid-1980’s and early 1990’s, it was a pair of more recent Wildcats that stole the show. Gilbert Arenas scored 26 of his game-high 45 points in the second half to lead Team Lexus to the come-from behind victory over Team Infiniti.
Jason Terry, who scored 25 of his 39 points after the halftime break, narrowly missed an opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds as he drew a foul on a three-point attempt, but the shot rimmed out. He made his first two free throws, and tried to intentionally miss the third, but the shot fell setting the score at its final, 152-151.
“You miss what you have here,” commented Arenas regarding the fan support in Tucson. “College fans are different than pro fans. When you run out with the crowd yelling, you get chills down your back. College years are the best years of your career.”
The players put on a show for the fans throughout, whether it was the crowd-favorite Terry jumping onto the press-row tables following a three-pointer or Richard Jefferson taking over the public address microphone to call the action during the fourth quarter.
“I was just having fun out there,” explained Jefferson. “I don’t get a chance to do some of those things in a game because if I did, my coach would kill me. It’s fun to play with Gil (Arenas), Steve (Kerr) and Sean (Elliott). It’s the first time we’ve been on the court together.”
Sean Rooks and Pete Williams were two of the older players that held their own against the younger players. Rooks recorded a game-high 20 rebounds to go along with 15 points to help lead Team Lexus to victory. Williams, a member of Olson’s first Arizona team in 1984, scored 16 points and added nine rebounds.
“Awesome, it’s great,” said Williams. “(I feel the) same way we all feel. It’s a testament to the program and where it stands on a national level. We have nothing but respect for Coach Olson.”
Steve Kerr and Sean Elliott were among the members of the 1988 Final Four team that competed in the exhibition contest. Kerr knocked down three three-pointers and Elliott grabbed 10 rebounds.
“It used to be that all of us (players) would make any excuse to get together,” said Elliott. “But now, the University does it for us, and that’s a really good thing.”
The athletic department retired the jersey worn by Jason Gardner during halftime. Gardner, the highest-scoring guard in school history and the school’s career leader in minutes played, was accompanied by his family for the ceremony.
“It’s a big honor,” said Gardner. “It was an honor to play for Coach Olson. He made me a better player and a better man.”
Olson was equally as proud of Gardner.
“It was great to have an opportunity to retire Jason Gardner’s jersey because he is a team guy and has been a team guy for his entire life,” said Olson. “With the number of minutes played throughout his four years here, that’s an indication of how important he was to the team all four years.”
The program also held the Lute Olson All-Star Classic in 2003. This year’s event had similar success to that of the first one.
“It was great to see the turnout of the fans,” said Olson. “It was a really nice turnout, a good day and a fun time had by all.”