Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats hoops countdown: From the archives — Big Bird hits big shot to beat K-State at buzzer in 1973

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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 comes to a close. Today marks 52 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.

Here’s the next top play (they will be listed randomly during the countdown until a determination is made in a bracket):

6-10 CENTER BOB ELLIOTT NAILS 35-FOOTER AT BUZZER TO BEAT KANSAS STATE IN 1973

Bob Elliott's buzzer-beater shot from 35 feet sent a packed McKale Center into a frenzy in 1973

Arizona center Bob Elliott’s buzzer-beater shot from 35 feet sent a packed McKale Center into a frenzy in 1973

This one was pre-ESPN and YouTube, but to the Arizona basketball purist who has followed the program more than 40 years, it only requires a memory.

Kansas State was 5-0 and ranked No. 13 by the Associated Press, while Arizona, playing under “The Fox” Freddie Snowden, was 5-1 and ranked No. 14. The game on Dec. 19, 1973, goes down as one of the most significant pre-Lute Olson affairs in the program’s history.

With the game tied at 72 after K-State’s Lon Kruger — now the Oklahoma head coach — missed a shot, Arizona’s Coniel Norman was fouled with four seconds left. Arizona was not in the bonus so it forced Snowden to diagram an out-of-bounds play to win the game. The thought of 6-10, 220-pound freshman center Bob “Big Bird” Elliott taking a long-distance shot did not enter the discussion.

“We wanted to get the ball in deep to Norman (a sharp-shooting guard) or (power forward Al) Fleming,” Snowden was quoted as saying by the Tucson Citizen. “That was the plan.”

Fred Snowden draws up what he hopes to be the game-winning play against Kansas State and it did not include center Bob Elliott (Tucson Citizen clip)

Fred Snowden draws up what he hopes to be the game-winning play against Kansas State and it did not include center Bob Elliott (Tucson Citizen clip)

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ARIZONA’S TOP PLAYS LISTED SO FAR

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 win over North Carolina.

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The play took too long to develop against K-State’s defense with only four seconds showing on the clock. Jim Rappis inbounded to Eric Money near midcourt. Elliott left the post area to above the key to clear potential room for Norman or Fleming. Money, who could not immediately get around a defender to look toward Norman or Fleming, passed toward Elliott.

“I couldn’t see the clock,” Elliott told the Citizen. “And I heard the crowd hollering for me to shoot it. I could see Al out of the corner of my eye and he was yelling for me to shoot it too.”

Elliott whirled and released the shot about 35 feet away from the basket, between midcourt and the top of the key. The buzzer sounded with the ball in the air. The shot hit nothing but net through the cylinder. Pandemonium. Arizona won 74-72 in front of a frenzied sellout crowd of 13,658 at McKale Center.

“It’s a good thing I didn’t realize I was that far away from the basket,” a smiling Elliott told the Citizen. “I would have probably tried to dribble in closer.”

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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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