Arizona Wildcats best-play countdown: Wise caps memorable season of buzzer-beaters with win over USC

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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 33 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):

Nic Wise points skyward in celebration after beating USC in 2010 with his third game-winning shot of that season (YouTube video capture)

Nic Wise points skyward in celebration after beating USC in 2010 with his third game-winning shot of that season (YouTube video capture)

Nic Wise’s last-second layup following a drive past three USC defenders in 2010 has more meaning than another game-winning basket for the guard from Houston.

The shot was his last at McKale Center after the most tumultuous career for any Arizona player. Yes, the most, not “arguably” the most. The most.

Wise was coached by four different coaches in his four seasons at Arizona — Lute Olson, Kevin O’Neill, Russ Pennell and Sean Miller. A knee injury made him miss 16 games in his freshman and sophomore years.

Wise seriously contemplated transferring after Olson’s first leave of absence in 2007 and when Olson announced his retirement before the 2008-09 season. He decided to stay. Before Miller was hired in 2009, Wise thought of foregoing his senior season to play professionally in Europe because of the coaching turmoil and two other players in his recruiting class — Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill — were about to jump early to the NBA.

“It’s not what I expected coming into college,” Wise told the Seattle Times in a 2010 interview. “I signed to play for Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson.”

One of Miller’s first recruiting jobs was to make Wise stay.

“I take it in stride and just think of it as learning from four different sets of eyes and four different perspectives and schemes,” Wise told the Times.

Wise’s final season included a controversial game-winning heave against Lipscomb and last-second driving layup against North Carolina State in consecutive games. His very last shot at McKale in a double-overtime win over USC was, fittingly, the game-winning drive through an obstacle of three defenders. He overcame so many obstacles at Arizona that kind of finish was appropriate on Senior Day.

He kissed his hands and pointed to the sky after putting Arizona ahead 86-84 with 1.2 seconds left.

The late Dave Sitton, who broadcast that game, succinctly mentioned at the end of the game: “When he wrote his name in the history of Arizona basketball, his last appearance in McKale Center will be, in capital letters … it will say, ‘WISE MOVE AGAIN.'”


ARIZONA’S TOP PLAYS LISTED SO FAR (Click on link to access blogs that pertain to the following)

Richard Jefferson’s tap-in at the buzzer off Jason Terry’s missed three-pointer beats Washington in 1999.
Loren Woods’ three blocked shots in succession — like rapid fire, one after the other within a five-second span — against Oregon in 2000.
Michael Wright’s shot in the lane with three seconds left topples No. 1 Stanford at Maples Pavilion in 2001.
Eddie Smith’s game-winning three-point play with two seconds left caps a furious last-minute rally at ASU in 1985.
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.



ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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