March 15, 2002
GAME: No. 11 Wyoming (22-8) vs. No. 3 Arizona (23-9).
REGIONAL: West, Second Round.
TIME: Saturday, 5:50 p.m. EST.
SITE: The Pit, Albuquerque, N.M.
Although it's not the matchup many expected, Wyoming certainly deserves to be here.
Having pulled off the early shocker of the NCAA tournament, Wyoming looks to make it back-to-back upsets when it meets perennial power Arizona in the second round.
Despite losing in the semifinals of their conference tournament after winning the regular season crown, the Cowboys were selected as one of three teams from the Mountain West Conference to the field of 65. Few gave them much of a chance against Gonzaga, which many thought received an unfairly low No. 6 seed, in the first round of the West Regional.
Wyoming responded by making its first NCAA tournament appearances in 13 years a memorable one, stunning Gonzaga 73-66 on Thursday night.
"I don't think we're a Cinderella," Wyoming coach Steve McClain said. "I think we're a team with a purpose."
Josh Davis scored 11 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, including one that he slammed in with 1:07 left to seal the win. Uche Nwonsu-Amadi led five Cowboys in double figures with 14 points.
Third-seeded Arizona, in pursuit of another national championship to go with its 1997 title, withstood a spirited performance by No. 14 UC Santa Barbara on Thursday before pulling away for an 86-81 win.
Jason Gardner scored 28 points for Arizona, which had lost its NCAA tournament opener four times in the past 10 years.
"This is a matter of survival, and we survived," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "Not by much."
Though Arizona will be the favorite Saturday, Wyoming will play the contest as if it's a home game, because Olson and the Wildcats are not exactly popular at The Pit.
After a close loss three years ago to New Mexico, Olson vowed he would not return to the Lobos' home arena.
The NCAA selection committee did not give Olson a choice.
Local fans jeered everything about Arizona on Thursday, including the big "A" flags its cheerleaders carried around the court. The Gauchos' mascot took advantage of the sentiment - he stripped off a jacket to reveal a T-shirt that read "New Mexico Basketball" and got a loud cheer.
The longer Wyoming can stay in the game, the worse things could be for Arizona, which has won 18 of 33 all-time meetings.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Wyoming - F Davis (11.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg), F Marcus Bailey (14.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg), C Nwonsu-Amadi (10.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg), G Donta Richardson (12.3 ppg, 3.0 apg), G Jason Straight (9.1 ppg, 3.4 apg). Arizona - F Rick Anderson (12.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg), F Luke Walton (15.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 6.3 apg), C Isaiah Fox (4.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg), G Salim Stoudamire (13.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg), G Gardner (20.8 ppg, 4.5 apg).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Wyoming - At-large bid, Mountain West Conference, defeated No. 6 Gonzaga 73-66, first round. Arizona - At-large bid, Pac-10 conference, defeated No. 14 UC Santa Barbara 86-81, first round.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Wyoming - 9-18, 14 years. Arizona - 33-19, 21 years.