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This year’s countdown to tipoff includes an overall look at the best play in Arizona Wildcats history, which will be determined as the days leading up to tipoff. Today marks 37 days until Arizona starts its 2014-15 season against Mount St. Mary’s on Nov. 14 at McKale Center. Along with the mentioning of the top plays, the countdown will once again display the top players who wore the number that corresponds with the day. The following is the next top play (they will be listed randomly during the countdown until a determination is made in a bracket):
The three-point line was not instituted in college basketball until 1986-87, so with ASU leading Arizona 60-53 with 37 seconds remaining in Tempe in 1985, what chance did the Wildcats have to win?
What kind of prayer did Arizona have after one was answered the previous season when Eddie Smith banked in a shot at the buzzer to beat ASU 65-64 in Tempe?
With Lute Olson coaching, Arizona proved anything was possible.
Smith did not need a three-point line for his heroics this time. All he needed was a three-point play. Two of them. He converted those as part of a historic rally after ASU appeared to be in command.
“It was a team effort for us coming back. Lute prepared us well on not giving up and more importantly, showed the players how to put insecurity in our opponents when making a come back. I must say, we as a team, celebrated so hard in front of the ASU fans that I ‘m sure they want some of our blood.”
— Eddie Smith
He scored and was fouled with 26 seconds remaining. His free throw cut the lead to 60-56. The late Bobby Thompson, an ASU guard who is the son of the former Arizona standout tailback with the same name, missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw situation and Pete Williams grabbed the rebound. Arizona’s Morgan Taylor made a 20-foot jump shot with nine seconds left to cut the lead to 60-58.
Williams deflected the inbound pass and Smith emerged with the ball after a scramble. His scoop shot banked in while he was fouled by Thompson with two seconds remaining. The game was tied. A free throw would give the Wildcats the improbable lead. He calmly made it. ASU could not get a clean shot off as the game ended.
ARIZONA’S TOP PLAYS LISTED SO FAR (Click on link to access blogs that pertain to the following)
— Eddie Smith’s bank shot at the buzzer beats ASU 65-64 in Tempe in 1984 and sets Lute Olson’s dominant program in motion.
— Salim Stoudamire’s jumper with six-tenths of a second left beats ASU in Tempe in 2005.
— Nick Johnson gives Arizona fans Christmas Day gift with game-saving blocked shot against San Diego State in 2012.
— MoMo Jones’ 16-foot bank shot at the buzzer in 2010 adds to New York flavor of Arizona winning shots at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion.
— Chris Mills’ buzzer-beating jumper in regulation gives Arizona life in its 105-94 overtime victory over UCLA in 1991.
— Kenny Lofton’s behind-the-back, double-pump dunk caps rout of Oregon in 1988, ranks as one of college hoops’ best dunks of that season.
— Salim Stoudamire’s game-winning long-distance three-pointer downs UCLA in 2005.
— Derrick Williams’ emphatic blocked shot against Washington in 2011 saves game for Arizona.
— Khalid Reeves’ coast-to-coast game-winner with less the five seconds left beats Stanford at Maples Pavilion in 1992.
— Steve Kerr’s first shot after father’s assassination in 1984, a 25-foot jumper against ASU, gives him hero status in Tucson and contributes to Arizona’s emergence in the Pac-10.
— Sean Rook’s last-second bank shot at Stanford in 1991 gives the Wildcats a 78-76 victory.
— Salim Stoudamire’s game-winning jumper against Oklahoma State in the 2005 Sweet 16.
— Sean Elliott’s free throw breaks Lew Alcindor’s conference scoring record in 1989.
— Craig McMillan’s McClutch shot at the buzzer from full-court pass from Steve Kerr against Oregon State in 1986.
— Arizona 6-10 center Bob Elliott’s 35-foot jumper at the buzzer beats Kansas State in 1973.
— Sean Elliott downs Duke with three-pointer over Danny Ferry in last minute in 1989.
— Miles Simon’s 65-foot bank shot as time expired to beat Cincinnati in Phoenix in 1996.
— Tom Tolbert’s no-look, twisting shot against North Carolina in the 1988 Elite Eight.
“The games at ASU stand out in my memory,” Smith told me in a 2010 interview. “I was fortunate to shoot and make the winning shots that sealed the deal both times there.
“In the ’84-’85 year, it was a team effort for us coming back. Lute prepared us well on not giving up and more importantly, showed the players how to put insecurity in our opponents when making a come back. I must say, we as a team, celebrated so hard in front of the ASU fans that I ‘m sure they want some of our blood.”
The victory propelled Arizona to a 12-6 Pac-10 season, its best record since the Wildcats joined the conference in 1978-79. Only two years previously, before Olson arrived, the Wildcats finished 1-17 in conference play. The UA also advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in eight years.
“The foundation is laid,” Olson, whose team was picked to finish 10th in the Pac-10, told the Associated Press after the ASU game. “Now all we have to do is establish credibility.”