Originally created 04/01/97

Time is now for Arizona



INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Now there's only one No. 1 left for the Arizona Wildcats - themselves.

Arizona, the team that was supposed to be a year away, just needed an extra five minutes to win its first NCAA basketball championship.

Led by the backcourt of junior Miles Simon and freshman Mike Bibby, Arizona kept Kentucky from repeating as national champion with an 84-79 overtime victory Monday night.

With three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman in the starting lineup, next year was supposed to be the one for Arizona. Instead, the Wildcats (25-9) made their first championship appearance a thrilling one in a game featuring 20 ties and 18 lead changes.

Fourth-seeded Arizona became the first team in tournament history to knock off three No. 1 seeds - Kansas, North Carolina and now Kentucky, the winningest programs in college basketball history.

Kentucky was trying to become the second repeat champion since UCLA's stretch of seven straight titles ended in 1973. Duke repeated as champion in 1992.

Instead, Arizona won the first overtime championship game since Michigan beat Seton Hall 80-79 in 1989. Arizona reached the Final Four with an overtime win against Providence in the Southeast regional.

Simon, who missed the first 11 games of the season because of academic problems, finished with 30 points. Bibby, the son of former UCLA star Henry Bibby, who won three college championships himself as a player, had 14 of his 19 points in the second half.

Arizona became the losingest team to win it all since Kansas was 27-11 in 1988.

One of the wildest final minutes of regulation in NCAA tournament history set up the overtime.

Bibby made two free throws with 1:01 left to give Arizona a 72-68 lead. Ron Mercer, Kentucky's hero in last season's championship game, then hit a 3-pointer with 51 seconds left to bring Kentucky within one.

Bibby stood out near halfcourt dribbling the ball as the shot clock wound down. He finally made a move with seven seconds left on it and found Bennett Davison for a layup that made it 74-71 with 18 seconds left.

Anthony Epps wasted no time in tying it, hitting a 3 with 12 seconds to play.

Arizona's final chance to win in regulation ended when Simon turned it over a drive with two seconds left.

The overtime was a free throw shooting contest for Arizona, which scored all 10 of its points from the foul line. Davison hit the first two with 25 seconds gone to give Arizona the lead for good.

Kentucky (35-5) made just two field goal in the overtime, a basket by Anthony Epps with 1:46 left and a 3-pointer by Cameron Mills with 6.4 seconds remaining that just made it close.

Simon, who scored 24 points in the semifinals, was named the tournament's outstanding player. He finished 14-for-17 from the free throw line.

Arizona finished 34-for-41 from the line, compared to Kentucky's 9-for-17.

Scott Padgett led Kentucky with 17 points, 10 in the final five minutes of regulation.

Mercer, who struggled by shooting 7-for-21 and scoring 19 points in the semifinal win over Minnesota, finished with 13 on 5-for-9 shooting and had nine rebounds. Mills and Nazr Mohammed each had 12 points for Kentucky and Mohammed grabbed 11 rebounds.

The lightning quick pace everyone expected wasn't there, but both teams played solid defense throughout. The game was decided by one of the bakcourts, Bibby and Simon, even though they had 11 turnovers compared to two by the Kentucky guards.

Epps was 4-for-13 from the field and had 11 points, while Wayne Turner was 4-for-9 for eight points.

After Kentucky went on a 7-0 run to tie the game 20-20 with 8:00 left, neither team led by more than two points the rest of the half and there were five lead changes. The last of those came with 57 seconds left as Eugene Edgerson made two free throws to give Arizona the 33-32 halftime lead.