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UA Sports Top 10

By Justin St. Germain
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
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The highlights and lowlights of the sports year

1. Turmoil on the gridiron

The Arizona football team had more head coaches than wins this year but can look forward to a fresh start next season.

Former head coach John Mackovic was fired Sept. 28, 2003, hours after losing to Texas Christian 13-10 in overtime. At the time of his firing, the Wildcats were 1-4. In his 2 1/2 seasons at the UA, he posted a record of 10-18.

The firing came after a long period of player and fan unrest that saw more than 40 players complain to President Peter Likins and prompted one fan to create a Web site calling for his firing.

Assistant coach Mike Hankwitz took the UA helm on an interim basis and led the Wildcats to their lone Pac-10 win, a 27-22 upset of Washington Nov. 22 after which many fans stormed the field to celebrate.

But Hankwitz went 1-6 to finish the season. Former All-Pac-10 running back Clarence Farmer was kicked off the team, and the day after a forgettable loss to ASU, Livengood announced the hiring of Mike Stoops, former defensive coordinator at Oklahoma.

Fans responded almost immediately, snapping up season tickets and setting attendance records at Spring Practice.

Arizona will play its much-anticipated first game under Mike Stoops Sept. 4, against Northern Arizona.

2. Men's hoops ousted in 1st round of NCAA tourney

CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
The 2003-04 season didn't end on such a happy note for freshman guard Mustafa Shakur.

The last game of the Arizona basketball season unfolded much like the season itself.

Arizona (20-10) came out in the first half and dominated, looking like a Final Four contender. Then the Wildcats fell apart, and both the game and the season ended with bitter disappointment.

Seton Hall (21-9) outscored Arizona 39-18 in the last 15 minutes of its first-round NCAA Tournament game March 18, erasing a 14-point UA lead to beat the Wildcats, 78-75.

"It seems like a repeat of our problem all year long," Olson said following his team's season-ending loss. "We have a hard time living with prosperity."

The loss capped an erratic season. The UA started the season 10-1 but went 9-9 in its last 18 games. Arizona finished third in the Pac-10, its lowest conference finish since 1997.

3. 'Fan'-demonium follows homecoming win

JAKOB KONST/Arizona Daily Wildcat

Hoards of fans stormed the gates and poured onto the Arizona Stadium turf during the waning moments of the Wildcats' second win of the year, a 27-22 upset win over Washington at Homecoming on Nov. 10.

A melee ensued at midfield as fans celebrated with UA players while others dangled from goalposts at the stadium's north end zone.

The Wildcats had lost eight straight overall and hadn't won a Pac-10 home game since defeating Washington State two years ago.

UA senior linebacker Joe Siofele said he was speechless after seeing fans start to climb the neon-yellow goalpost.

"I don't know what to say. This is one of the greatest wins I've been a part of," said Siofele, who tallied five tackles and a sack.

A crowd of 48,319 watched sophomore Mike Bell rush for a career-high 222 yards and three touchdowns in the game, the fifth highest total in school history.

"It's not just a 'W,'" athletic director Jim Livengood, who had fired Mackovic a month prior, said. "This is a big-time win."

4. Men's hoops falls to undefeated Stanford on buzzer-beater

The Arizona men's basketball team lost Feb. 7 at Stanford thanks to the unlikeliest of events: a half-court buzzer-beater by a Stanford third-stringer.

The No. 2 Cardinal (20-0, 11-0 Pac-10) battled back and forth with the Wildcats (14-6, 6-5) for most of the second half. But in the end, it was just three-tenths of a second that mattered. That was the time left on the game clock when Stanford forward Nick Robinson let go of his off-balance, game-winning 3-pointer, vaulting the Cardinal to a 80-77 victory.

Arizona fell behind by as many as 12 on national television and in front of a Maples Pavilion sellout crowd that included professional golfer and Stanford alumnus Tiger Woods but battled back to take a four-point lead into the game's final minute, thanks in part to a 19-6 run.

A free throw and a 3-pointer from the corner by Stanford swingman Josh Childress quickly tied the game, giving Arizona the ball with 23 seconds to go.

Robinson and Cardinal shooting guard Matt Lottich closed in on junior Salim Stoudamire with less than 10 seconds to go, forcing the ball loose to set up the winning basket.

"I'm not sure if he popped it out or if I did, but the ball was loose and I grabbed it," said Robinson, who started in place of injured forwards Justin Davis and Matt Haryasz. "I just looked at the clock. When I let it go, it felt good."

Stanford's 20th straight win tied a team record to start the season, while Arizona lost five of eight games for the first time since head coach Lute Olson's first season at Arizona.

5. Softball opens season on best-ever run, faces Olympic team

With only one game to go until its game against Team USA and head coach Mike Candrea, the Arizona softball team seemed destined to have a perfect record going into the matchup. Then came Pac-10 rival Washington.

The No. 1 Wildcats were upset by the No. 9 Huskies 7-6 on Mar. 21 in the championship game of the Kia Klassic in Fullerton, Calif., after setting the school record for wins to open a season with 34. Arizona's record against ranked teams fell to 12-1.

"Our streak kind of came to an end, but I just told them, 'I knew we weren't going to go undefeated the entire year, and we just need to start a new one,'" acting head coach Larry Ray said.

On March 29, the Wildcats played an exhibition game against the USA Softball team before a record 3,541 fans. Candrea is currently on leave from the UA to coach in the Olympics.

The game featured a highly anticipated matchup of past versus present: UA alumna Jennie Finch against sophomore Alicia Hollowell.

Though Finch and the rest of the USA team got the better of Hollowell and the UA, winning 6-1, the Wildcats accomplished what few other teams have been able to do against Team USA on its "Aiming for Athens" tour: scoring a run off Finch.

6. Men's golf storms back to win Pac-10 title, sweeps conference awards

Freshman Henry Liaw birdied six of his first 11 holes in the final round April 28, spearheading a UA rally that wiped out ASU's 9-stroke advantage and gave Arizona its first Pacific 10 Conference Championship since 1991.

Liaw shot a 4-under par 68 to win the tournament, finishing 4 strokes ahead of ASU's Alejandro Canizares, last year's NCAA champion and the leader heading into yesterday. As a team, the Wildcats finished 5-over on the day and 10-over (1450) for the tournament, outpacing the Sun Devils (15-over, 1455) by 14 strokes in the final 18 holes to win running away.

Liaw, a native of Rowland Heights, Calif., claimed the first individual title of his young, collegiate career, and his entire team showed its approval by mauling him on the 18th green.

The Pac-10, in turn, showed its approval by awarding Liaw Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors the following week. Senior Chris Nallen won the conference's Golfer of the Year award, and head coach Rick LaRose won Coach of the Year.

7. Emily Mason wins NCAA 400m swim title

- Frank Busch named NCAA women's Coach of the Year; women finish third in country, men fourth overall

8. Roster upheaval for men's hoops

- Team loses recruit Ndudi Ebi to NBA, freshman Chris Dunn to academic ineligibility

- Isaiah Fox suspended for stealing from U-Mart, sidelined for season with knee injury

- Freshman Ivan Radenovic added at midseason; Salim Stoudamire suspended for violating team rules

9. Gymcats barely miss NCAAs; McCabe, Bisordi compete in Los Angeles

10. Icecats miss tourney for 1st time in 25 years

- UA finishes with 12-15-2 record, fails to earn postseason berth for first time ever

Write a Letter to the Editor
UA Sports Top 10
The Hot Corner: The anti-goodbye column
The Senior Class
Softball: Pac-10 champs not satisfied
Parting Shots
Showdown with top-ranked Stanford crucial for baseball's playoff hopes
Men's golf heads to regionals on heels of Pac-10 Championship win
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