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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “1989: Arizona swats Clemson, advances to Sweet 16”

    MARCH 20, 1989 – BOISE, Idaho – The University of Arizona has made no secret about how it wants to end the 1988-1989 season – as national champions.

    Wildcat head coach Lute Olson has drawn up a blue print to see to it that Arizona gets there.

    After each game, the sixth year Wildcat coach has made adjustments, depending on what problems arose.

    Against Clemson University Saturday afternoon, the problem appeared to be the Tigers’ “”Swat Team”” of junior center Elden Campbell and sophomore forward Dale Davis, who had combined for over 120 blocked shots on the year.

    But the duo did not even come close to smacking the ball against the Wildcats, as Arizona either pounded the ball inside like they did not exist, or let its guards shoot three-pointers

    Both ideas proved easy answers to whatever questions Clemson brought to the Wildcats’ attention, as Arizona advanced to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Sweet 16 with a 94-68 victory in front of 12,428 at the Boise State University Pavilion.

    Saturday’s win means the Wildcats will travel to Denver’s McNichols Arena to play the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Thursday evening.

    Starting with the opening moments of the first half, the Wildcats took it to the sixth-place team in the Atlantic Coast Conference by stepping up their defensive pressure; especially on Campbell and Davis, who were fronted by UA’s front-liners, harassed by Arizona’s guards, or both.

    Before the top-ranked Wildcats picked up their game, Clemson (19-11 overall) hung tough, as the game was tied 10 times in the first nine minutes of the game.

    “”I knew they would come out pretty strong,”” said senior forward Sean Elliott, who was the game’s high scorer with 25 points. “”They’ve had big-game experience before. This was nothing new to them.””

    What did appear brand-spanking new was the Wildcats (29-3) ability to reject the “”Swat Team’s”” shots out of their hands.

    With Clemson up 25-23, Arizona build its lead piece by piece, scoring 16 straight points, and holding the Tigers scoreless for nine minutes and two seconds.

    During that stretch, Clemson went 17 times down court without a score, and on seven consecutive occasions committed turnovers, most of them forced by Arizona’s defense.

    “”It was a case after the first six to seven minutes that we really played outstanding man-to-man defense,”” Olson said. “”That’s nothing new to us. We’ve relied on our defense all season.””

    Arizona also relied on its guards as they contributed 34 points, 21 in the first half.

    “”I told (the guards) that they had to get the ball in rhythm and then get the ball in the hole,”” Olson said.

    Early on, almost nothing fell for the guard combination of senior Kenny Lofton, sophomore Matt Muehlebach, junior Harvey Mason and freshman Matt Othick as they were two of 12 from the three-point line at halftime.

    Many of the misses came while Clemson’s offense was in search of itself. With neither team scoring at will, Clemson managed to stay close at halftime, 44-35.

    “”In a tournament game, if you are up by nine at halftime, you have to thank your lucky stars,”” Olson said on not being frustrated with what could have been a bigger advantage.

    The lucky stars were fading away as Clemson closed Arizona’s lead to four with 16:43 left in the game. “”There was a little concern,”” Muehlebach said. “”We saw how explosive they were against St. Mary’s (Clemson’s first round foe).””

    The concern lasted until Muehlebach – who is fast-becoming one of the best big-game players around – connected on consecutive three-pointers.

    “”Coach just told us if the shots are going to be given to us that we have to shoot them,”” Muehlebach said. “”Thank God they went in.””

    Two ensuing three-pointes by Lofton did in the outmanned Tigers.

    From then on everything went Arizona’s way as Elliott, senior center Anthony Cook and junior forward Jud Buechler did their thing for the victory,

    “”Elliot is a great player. Cook is a great player,”” Clemson head coach Cliff Ellis said. “”I like that basketball team.””


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