With a No. 2 national ranking, an 11-0 record and five future NBA players on their roster, the Michigan Wolverines entered Salt Lake City’s Huntsman Center on Dec. 28, 1988, with an air of confidence.
Hours later, the eventual NCAA Division I national champions would leave with their only non-conference loss of the season – a 70-66 upset at the hands of UAA.
Powered by 20 points from Michael Johnson, 18 points from Todd Fisher and 16 from Ron Fischer, the Seawolves shot a blazing 63 percent to stun the Glen Rice-led Wolverines and a crowd of 11,400.
“You could see it coming,” Michigan coach Bill Frieder to the Associated Press after the game. “I didn’t believe it would happen, but it happened.”
Michigan had been averaging over 100 points a game. It had been giving up only 67 points. It had plowed through 11 straight opponents, beating them by an average of 33.2 points.
UAA was no slouch – it was the runnerup in the previous season’s NCAA Division II national championships and over the years it had beaten a handful of Division I teams in the Great Alaska Shootout.
Still, the Seawolves were monumental underdogs. They set a goal of being respectable against the Wolverines. Instead, they beat a national power on a neutral court.
The game was the lead story on ESPN’s Sports Center – the announcer mispronounced the name of UAA coach Ron Abegglen – and it made the front page of sports sections across the country.
“They’re going to call to see if it’s a misprint,” Abegglen said.
“No misprint,” Fischer said. “Maybe we didn’t think we could beat them, but we knew we could play with them. Our goal was not to get embarrassed.”
– Beth Bragg and Nathan Sagan