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Stanford game high note of strange season

By Seth Doria
Arizona Daily Wildcat
May 12, 1999
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Ian C. Mayer
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Freshman Richard Jefferson (44) drives around Stanford forward Peter Sauer (5) during a game at McKale Center. The Wildcats finished second in the Pac-10 this season but lost to Oklahoma 61-60 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Exactly two months have passed since the UA men's basketball team's loss to Oklahoma in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, ending what was both the most entertaining and most frustrating season in the program's recent history.

While the 61-60 last-second loss to the Sooners surprised most of the country and certainly the players, the prospects of the early exit were obvious from the beginning. The season started with a last-second win over then-No. 9 Tennessee in the BCA Classic when the Volunteers missed three shots in the last 10 seconds.

That led to a season-long stretch that saw the Wildcats win games they shouldn't have and lose games they should have won.

Arizona had to beat BYU bloody in overtime Nov. 28 and needed some serious acrobatics from freshman Richard Jefferson to pull out a win over Washington at McKale Center Jan. 9.

On the flip side, the Wildcats were robbed of a win at The Pit against New Mexico Jan. 16 thanks to a time keeping "error" and lost at Oregon State Jan. 23 when senior center A.J. Bramlett missed both free throws with no time left.

But more than any other games, the two that epitomized the Wildcats' season took place Jan. 28 and Feb. 27. Both were against Stanford.

In the first meeting the Wildcats played their most complete game of the year en route to a 78-76 win. Senior center Jason Terry torched Stanford guard Arthur Lee for 29 points and A.J. Bramlett blocked four shots while shutting down Tim Young. The most impressive statistic of the game: seven steals, six turnovers.

"It felt so good; I'm still living it up," Terry said after the game. " This is the biggest game of my career."

The next time the two teams met, Stanford had the Pac-10 title on the line and was celebrating senior night. Arizona was coming off a blowout loss to California in Oakland two days earlier and never recovered.

The All-American Terry, who won the conference player of the year award after becoming the first player since Gary Payton to lead the league in scoring, assists and steals, shot only 7 for 29 while Lee went on to score 29.

Pac-10 freshman of the year Michael Wright, junior forward Eugene Edgerson and freshman forward Richard Jefferson fouled out and the crowd was still on the court celebrating the 98-83 win while the Wildcats somberly ate their post-game meal of pizza in the locker room.

UA head coach Lute Olson, who led UA to a 12th-straight 20-win season and its 15th consecutive NCAA Tournament, sat with a grin in the postgame press conference and called the game "a good ol' fashioned thrashing."

The team recovered to sweep the next weekend series at home over Southern Cal and UCLA, but fell apart under the bright lights of the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. But while the season ended poorly on the court, Olson assured future success by signing McDonald's All-American point guard and Indiana Mr. Basketball Jason Gardner, Van Nuys, Calif., guard Gilbert Arenas and Texas J.C. guard Lamont Frazier.

"We are going to miss A.J. and J.T., but the others are going to be a year older, so it is not like we are going to be starting from scratch again," Olson said after the season ended. "The future is very bright for us."

1998-99 record: 22-7 overall, 13-5 Pac-10, lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament

Player stats        G   PPG   RPG   APG   BLK    
Jason Terry        29  21.9   3.3   5.5     6   
A.J. Bramlett      29  14.2   9.4   1.1    37    
Michael Wright     29  13.9   8.8   0.3    13    
Richard Jefferson  28  11.3   4.8   2.9    11    
Ruben Douglas      27   8.0   2.1   2.0     6    
Eugene Edgerson    28   5.2   4.8   0.3     4    
Justin Wessel      29   3.1   2.7   0.8     6    
Traves Wilson      28   3.0   1.5   0.9     1    
Rick Anderson      25   2.7   2.0   0.9     9    
John Ash           12   0.9   0.4   0.0     0     
Josh Pastner        4   0.5   0.5   0.0     0     
Jason Stewart       5   0.0   0.0   0.0     0