Arizona Basketball

Throwback Thursday: Anniversary of classic Arizona-Duke game in Meadowlands



Sean Elliott takes the three-pointer over the outstretched hands of Danny Ferry in 1989 (YouTube video capture, click on the photo to access video)

Sean Elliott takes the three-pointer over the outstretched hands of Danny Ferry in 1989 (YouTube video capture, click on the photo to access video)

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Sean Elliott

Such great memories of that Arizona-Duke game 26 years ago today …

The national TV game against Duke and Mike Krzyzewski did not faze senior Sean Elliott as he dribbled the ball up the court with one minute remaining and the game tied at 70.

The crowd of 18,196 at The Meadowlands in New Jersey stood in anticipation of what Elliott might do next isolated against fellow All-American Danny Ferry of Duke. Elliott made only 5 of 20 shots at that point. The immediate thought was Elliott will try to penetrate and try to draw the foul or attempt to draw defenders to pass to an open teammate.

Instead, he pulled up for a three-point shot on top of the key, surprising Ferry, whose reaction to extend high toward Elliott’s release was too late. Elliott, a 6-foot-8-inch senior, shot the ball at his zenith. It swished in to put Arizona ahead 73-70 with 53 seconds remaining.

His two foul shots, in a one-and-one situation with 18 seconds left, gave the Wildcats the points that would make the difference in the 77-75 victory. Elliott finished with 24 points, including the heroic spurt of five of Arizona’s last seven.

“This is the kind of game you win to go to the Final Four,” Elliott was quoted as saying by the New York Times. ”This is the kind of game you win in the Final Four, or in the championship game.”

On Duke’s following possession, Quin Snyder missed in the lane, Ferry missed a hurried 3-pointer and the ball went out-of-bounds off Henderson to Arizona. Anthony Cook (19 points and five blocked shots) scored a layup against Duke’s press to give the Wildcats a 75-70 lead with 27 seconds remaining.

John Smith’s 3-pointer made it 75-73, but Elliott countered with two free throws. Snyder missed, but Ken Lofton had a traveling violation with nine seconds left. Snyder scored inside two seconds later, and Cook, a 62.3-percent free-throw shooter, missed the front end of a one-and-one with six seconds left.


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ARIZONA (77): Elliott 6-21 11-12 24, Buechler 3-9 1-3 7, Cook 8-13 3-5 19, Lofton 2-4 0-1 5, Muehlebach 4-6 4-4 14, Mason 0-0 0-0 0, Othick 1-3 0-0 3, Rooks 1-3 3-5 5, Womack 0-0 0-0 0.Totals 25-59 22-30 77.

DUKE (75): Smith 4-5 0-0 10, Ferry 9-21 8-10 29, Abdelnaby 1-5 0-0 2, Henderson 4-15 0-0 9, Snyder 4-10 0-0 9, Vrickey 2-6 0-0 4, Davis 0-1 0-0 0, Laettner 6-6 0-1 12, Koubek 0-2 0-0 0.Totals 30-71 8-11 75.

Halftime-Arizona 38, Duke 32. 3-point goals-Arizona 5-9 (Muehlebach 2-4, Lofton 1-2, Elliott 1-1, Othick 1-1), Duke 7-18 (Ferry 3-6, Smith 2-2, Henderson 1-5, Snyder 1-5). Fouled out-Vrickey. Rebounds- Arizona 39 (Elliott, Buechler 10), Duke 44 (Ferry 12). Assists-Arizona 10 (Lofton 3), Duke 17 (Snyder 9). Total fouls-Arizona 12, Duke 25. Technicals-Arizona Coach Olson 2. A-18,196.


Lute Olson was intense in the game against Duke, drawing two technical fouls (YouTube video screen shot)

Lute Olson was intense in the game against Duke, drawing two technical fouls (YouTube video screen shot)

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Ferry rebounded and passed long to Christian Laettner, who had a clear path to the basket before Lofton fouled him from behind.

“An instinct play,” said Laettner, who missed the front end of the one-and-one and Elliott cradled the rebound for the win. “Anyone would have done it. But it was a smart foul.”

Lofton’s instincts allowed the Wildcats to survive a 29-3 Duke run that took the Blue Devils from a 37-19 deficit with 4:05 left in the first half to a 48-40 lead with 15:34 left in the game. Ferry scored 12 of the points and hit a 23-foot 3-pointer to pull Duke within 36-30 at intermission. Three of his points came on free throws after two technical fouls on Arizona coach Lute Olson.

“We played like we were 17 down instead of 17 up, a great deal of impatience,” Olson said.

“This simulated NCAA tournament conditions,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Hopefully we can use this experience further down the line.”


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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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