Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats best-play hoops countdown: Lofton’s behind-the-back double-pump dunk wows them

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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 43 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):

Kenny Lofton had one of the most memorable dunks in McKale Center history against Oregon in 1988

Kenny Lofton had one of the most memorable dunks in McKale Center history against Oregon in 1988

The game was not on the line. Arizona’s last play was not one of those spine-tingling buzzer-beaters you’ve read about in this series. The Wildcats were finishing off Oregon 89-57 at McKale Center to improve to 14-0 in the Pac-10 in their magical 1987-88 Final Four season.

Matt Muehlebach grabbed a long rebound off an Oregon miss and spotted Kenny Lofton breaking free up court. Nobody was around him. It would not have mattered if he was blanketed by a defender. Lofton, who went on to become one of the best base-stealers in major league baseball, had the speed and athleticism to distance himself from most.

With room to spare, the 5’10” guard from East Chicago, Ind., took off inside the lane, spun his body 180 degrees, pumped the ball between his legs in midair and emphatically slammed home a two-handed behind-the-back dunk. The crowd at McKale Center, a venue where a vast majority of the fans stuck around no matter the point differential, went nuts.

It was Lofton’s only basket of the night but it’s memorable to this day mostly because of his diminutive size. ABC-TV later selected that dunk as one of the 10 best of the 1987-88 season.

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

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.

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Kenny Lofton in a dunk contest against Ken Griffey Jr. in 1994. Griffey is the father of Arizona wide receiver Trey Griffey.

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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