Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats so close to eight Final Fours instead of four straight Elite Eight heartbreaks



Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a controversial offensive foul called against Nick Johnson in the waning seconds of overtime in last year’s game (TBS screen shot).

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The last four trips to the Elite Eight for Arizona have not been easy for the squeamish.

A mere seven points separate the Wildcats from heartbreak and the Final Four. The Wildcats were sent home heartbroken each time against Kansas (2003), Illinois (2005), Connecticut (2011) and Wisconsin (2014).

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The Wildcats missed nine shots in the last 13 seconds of each game combined that could have either tied the game or put Arizona ahead. That’s what separates Arizona from a potential eight Final Four appearances instead of four consecutive Elite Eight heartbreaks.

Some of Arizona’s best players could not convert those attempts: Jason Gardner, Salim Stoudamire, Hassan Adams, Derrick Williams, and T.J. McConnell. Adding to the frustration, Nick Johnson last year could not get a shot off after whistled for an offensive foul late in overtime and then was unable to get a shot off before time expired.

The ending play-by-play of each:


:02 Kansas ahead 78-75, Jason Gardner missed three-pointer
:02 Luke Walton offensive rebound
:01 Gardner missed three-pointer

Quotable: “It’s starting to sink in. I know it’s going to be the last time in the locker room with the coaches, the players. That’s the hardest part, knowing it’s all over and we’re not going to have another shot at it.” — Walton, senior forward


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This is the game in which Arizona could not hold on to a 15-point lead with 4:04 left in regulation.


:07 Game tied at 80, Jawann McClellan missed jump shot
:06 Illinois defensive rebound
:05 Illinois turnover
:03 Salim Stoudamire three-point shot blocked by Luther Head
:01 Hassan Adams missed three-pointer


:01 Adams missed three-pointer

Quotable: “Guys left and right on their team were hitting big buckets, left and right, left and right. Whether it was a big guy or a guard. It was just an unbelievable thing to lose a game that way.” — Mustafa Shakur, sophomore guard


:08 UConn ahead 65-63, Derrick Williams missed three-pointer
:05 Arizona offensive rebound
:03 Jamelle Horne missed three-pointer
:01 Arizona offensive rebound

Quotable: “I’ve never been prouder of a team, and I’ve never seen a team come so far as we did in a short period of time. It will probably feel better in a few weeks than it does now.” — Arizona coach Sean Miller, who took the Wildcats to the Elite Eight after missing the NCAA tournament in his first season the year previously



0:13 Wisconsin ahead 64-63, T.J. McConnell missed jump shot
0:13 Arizona offensive rebound
0:03 Nick Johnson offensive foul
0:03 Wisconsin timeout
0:02 Josh Gasser turnover
0:00 Johnson shot missed (not taken before buzzer)

“I wish I would have taken one less dribble, get the shot off, give us a little chance.” — Johnson, a junior guard


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[/ezcol_1half_end] publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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