Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats best-play countdown: Saint Nick gives UA Christmas gift with blocked shot against SDSU




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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 40 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):

Nick Johnson goes high to block the potential game-winning shot by San Diego State's Chase Tapley in the 2012 Diamond Head Classic title game in Honolulu (YouTube video capture)

Nick Johnson goes high to block the potential game-winning shot by San Diego State’s Chase Tapley in the 2012 Diamond Head Classic title game in Honolulu (YouTube video capture)

Rare does a defensive play make a best-plays list such as this series provides, but an athletic display trumps everything.

Nick Johnson, the best pure athlete to wear an Arizona basketball uniform, gave Wildcat fans a gift on Christmas Day 2012 by displaying what his athleticism can provide.

When San Diego State’s Chase Tapley curled around a screen and found a wide-open lane to the basket on the final possession of the 201 Diamond Head Classic title game, Arizona needed a Christmas gift to preserve its undefeated record. Saint Nick — Johnson — provided that with a swooping block shot from behind Tapley in the waning seconds.

Johnson trailed the play and timed his leap perfectly just as Tapley went up for his layup. He swatted the ball off the glass in the final seconds. The block thwarted San Diego State’s upset bid and preserved a 68-67 victory for Arizona, which improved to 12-0 for the first time since the 1987-88 Final Four season.

Arizona shot only 37.5 percent from the field and 5 of 20 from behind the arc, but there were many heroes for the Wildcats aside from Johnson.

Seniors Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom scored 21 and 17 points, respectively. Mark Lyons missed much of the second half with four fouls, but delivered late in the game, driving past Jamaal Franklin, drawing a foul and making the tying and go-ahead free throws with 13 seconds left. Johnson capped Christmas Day with the game-saving block.


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

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.


Continuing theme of athletic performances …


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[/ezcol_1half_end] 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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