Arizona Basketball

A look back at some of top UCLA-Arizona Wildcats hoops moments


The stage is set for another captivating game between No. 4 Arizona and No. 5 UCLA — the Duke vs. North Carolina rivalry of the West coast — when the teams meet Saturday night at McKale Center.

ESPN’s College GameDay will be on hand starting in the morning. Look for many NBA scouts and big-name people to be in attendance in what Arizona is marketing as a “Red Out” for its sellout crowd.

The Wildcats (26-3 overall and 15-1 in the Pac-12) can take one significant step closer to clinching the regular-season Pac-12 title with a victory. Their magic number is 2 with Oregon 14-2 and UCLA 12-3.

The matchup offers yet another chance for UCLA and Arizona to produce a classic.

Including Darrick Martin’s buzzer-beater for UCLA that ended Arizona’s 71-game winning streak at McKale Center in 1992 and the “He Touched the Ball” episode in 2013, the Bruins and Wildcats have shared in some monumental games.

Among them the memorable turn of events:

— In the only NCAA tournament game played between the teams (when Arizona was in the WAC), UCLA defeated the Wildcats 82-66 in an Elite Eight game at Pauley Pavilion on March 20, 1976. Fred Snowden’s team had the game tied at 58 before UCLA scored 12 unanswered points with 8:21 remaining. Catalyst Jim Rappis, the starting point guard, was injured throughout with a badly bruised foot, suffered in the previous game against UNLV. He finished with four points on 1 of 8 shooting from the field. If he was healthy, who knows?

— Arizona defeated No. 6 UCLA 70-69 in McKale Center on Jan. 18, 1979, in the Wildcats’ first conference matchup against the Bruins after the Arizona schools joined the Pac-10 in 1978-79. The Wildcats then beat USC 74-72 two days later in one of the wildest two-game sweeps in program history. At the end of the UCLA game, following John Smith’s go-ahead free throw in the waning seconds, pandemonium took over McKale as many of the 14,606 fans in attendance spilled on to the floor and attempted to rip the nets off the rims.

— Arizona clinched its first Pac-10 title in the 1985-86 season with Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr and Co., beating UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. A month earlier in Tucson, Arizona took command in the conference race by routing UCLA 85-60 as Wildcat nemesis Reggie Miller fouled out with more than seven minutes remaining.

The front page of The Arizona Daily Star sports page from March 4, 1986, signifying Arizona’s first Pac-10 title (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)


— Elliott broke Lew Alcindor’s conference scoring record in 1989 against UCLA at McKale Center and finished with 2,555 career points. At the 1:17 mark of this video:

— Arizona’s Chris Mills made a last-second jumper in 1991 at Pauley Pavilion to send the game into overtime and the Wildcats prevailed 105-94. The Wildcats won the Pac-10 title that season with a 14-4 record. Here’s a video of that entire classic with Keith Jackson and Dick Vitale calling the action:

— In the game following that classic, Martin and UCLA upset Arizona 89-87, ending the Wildcats’ 71-game winning streak at McKale Center. Martin’s game-winning off-balance shot with three seconds left over Damon Stoudamire sent the UCLA bench into a frenzy in front of the stunned crowd.

— In the season Arizona won its national championship (1996-97), UCLA swept the season series with an overtime win at Pauley Pavilion and a two-point escape at McKale Center. The Bruins, who featured Charles O’Bannon, J.R. Henderson and Toby Bailey, won the Pac-10 regular season by three games with a 15-3 record.

— Arizona went through a 13-4 stretch against the Bruins, culminating in 2005 with another sweep of UCLA that led to another regular-season Pac-10 title for Arizona. In that season, Salim Stoudamire drilled a long three-pointer late in the game to beat the Bruins at McKale Center. The shot is at the 3:34 mark of this video:

— In 2003, UCLA (at 9-19) upset the top-ranked Wildcats 96-89 in overtime in a quarterfinal game of the Pac-10 tournament in Los Angeles.

— UCLA turned the tide against Arizona in the series during the Wildcats’ lean years from 2006-09, with Lute Olson retiring and two interim staffs taking over. UCLA won eight consecutive games against Arizona and advanced to three Final Fours in that stretch under Ben Howland.

Sean Miller, hired in 2009-10 by Arizona, won his first two meetings with UCLA but has since gone 8-8, including a 5-5 record in the last 10 games. The final game in 2013 in the Pac-12 tournament was highlighted by the “He Touched the Ball” episode. Miller argued with a referee, who called a double-dribble violation against Arizona’s Mark Lyons, that UCLA’s Jordan Adams touched the ball in the process. Miller was assessed a technical foul and the Bruins prevailed 66-64. Miller was later fined $25,000 by the Pac-12 for allegedly confronting a ref and throwing a tirade in front of a conference staff member in a corridor of the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. A couple of weeks later, it was revealed by CBSSports.com that former Pac-12 director of officiating Ed Rush allegedly placed a bounty on Miller in the Pac-12 tournament, forcing the resignation of Rush.

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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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