AllSportsTucson.com is running a series that features the top 10 games of the Fred Snowden era as Arizona’s head basketball coach from 1972-81 leading up to the 50th anniversary of his historic hire March 21. Snowden became the first African-American head coach of a major college basketball program when Arizona athletic director Dave Strack hired him March 21, 1972. “The Fox,” as he was called because of his prowess on the basepaths as a young baseball player, ignited the Arizona fan base with a run-and-gun style of basketball. The success of the program (reaching the Elite Eight in 1976) under Snowden, who was an assistant at Michigan before his hire, was a precursor to what Lute Olson developed with the program.
6. Kiddie Korps comes of age playing all three OT periods in thriller over Utah
You can access the entire series by clicking here.
P.J. Erickson of the Tucson Citizen described Arizona’s 101-95 three-overtime epic win over Utah at McKale Center on Feb. 23, 1973, this way:
“It took three five-minute overtimes with five freshmen for Arizona to put away victory No. 14 on the season and seven in the WAC,” Erickson wrote, noting that the win put Fred Snowden’s team in position to claim the WAC title by winning the last three games of the season.
Al Fleming, one of the freshmen that comprised Snowden’s “Kiddie Korps” in his first season as head coach, told Erickson, “I’m too old for games like that.”
Fleming was only 18 years old at the time.
The other freshmen on the floor at the end were Eric Money, Coniel Norman, Jim Rappis and John Irving —all from Snowden’s heralded first recruiting class.
Money had the opportunity to put Arizona ahead with 5 seconds left in regulation but his free throw on a one-and-one situation was off the mark. Utah did not get a shot off and the game was tied at 72 going to the first overtime.
Irving stole the ball and drove for the layup with 37 seconds left in the first overtime to put Arizona ahead 80-78, but Utah guard Luther “Ticky” Burden drilled a jumper with 4 seconds left to send the game to the second overtime.
Fleming made three free throws in the last 38 seconds of the second overtime, including two with 22 seconds left to tie the game at 87, forcing the the third overtime.
Norman scored seven of Arizona’s first eight points of third overtime to push the Wildcats ahead 95-91. Fleming’s two free throws, Money’s jump shot and Rappis’ two free throws secured the win.
“The incredible thing is that we were even in the ballgame,” Utah coach Bill Foster was quoted as saying by Erickson. “We only shot 39 percent from the floor, we only had 17 free throws and shot 64 percent there, and Arizona shoots 50 percent and goes to the line 32 times.”
Burden, also a freshman, led all scorers with 35 points in the game.
In those days, teams played conference games in back-to-back days, so Arizona hosted BYU the next night after the grueling experience against the Utes. The Wildcats won that game 100-94.
“The kids are tired tonight, sure, but they’re young and I think our club is in good physical shape,” Snowden told the Tucson Citizen. “They’ll get a good night’s sleep and be ready.”
Snowden kept his Kiddie Korps lineup in the game from 6:43 left in regulation through the three overtime periods.
Norman had 28 points and Money 26. Irving, a 6-foot-9 center, had 13 points and 15 rebounds. Fleming finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds.
Rappis replaced junior college transfer Ron Allen in the game and helped limit Arizona’s turnovers. He also made all six of his free throws and pulled down five rebounds.
The game was only the fourth at the new McKale Center, which opened earlier that month. A crowd of 10,521 attended.
“I think it was just a matter of two good basketball teams that played excellent basketball and wanted to win,” Snowden told the Arizona Daily Star.
The teams had another storied game the following season when Utah visited McKale Center.
The Wildcats triumphed 122-92 a month after losing at Utah 121-106. The Utes set a WAC record with the 121 points, only to lose that distinction to Arizona’s 122 in Tucson.
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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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.