Lee Shappell’s first few paragraphs read as follows in the Arizona Republic when Arizona shot a school-record 71.4 percent from the field at McKale Center while upsetting A.C. Green and No. 20 Oregon State 69-58 on Feb. 25, 1984:
“It was appropriate some members of Arizona’s 1974 basketball team were in McKale Memorial Center on Saturday for their 10-year reunion. Former UA greats Eric Money and Bob Elliott, who helped make the program on that 19-7 team, witnessed the remaking of it as the Wildcats upset Pac-10 co-leader Oregon State.”
It was those Fred “The Fox” Snowden days starting with Money, Elliott and Co., in which hot-shooting, high-scoring basketball made its way to Tucson and McKale Center.
Arizona’s 117-75 victory over Nicholls on Monday night — breaking the school record for most points in an opener and establishing the top shooting performance in school history with a percentage of 71.7 –brought back memories of that historic win in Lute Olson’s first season at Arizona and also Snowden’s prolific-scoring attack.
Snowden’s team in 1975-76 — the season Arizona advanced to the Elite Eight before losing to UCLA at Pauley Pavilion — broke the school record with a 69.6-percent shooting performance in a 119-80 win over Midwestern on Dec. 1, 1975.
Al Fleming made all 10 of his field-goal attempts — a school record — in that game as Arizona shot 55 of 79 from the field.
The 1984 victory over Oregon State was a 25-of-35 shooting performance from the field that included Pete Williams (6 of 7), Brock Brunkhorst (5 of 6), Steve Kerr (4 of 5) and Eddie Smith (4 of 6) combining to make 19 of 24 shots. This was against a team coached by Ralph Miller that included Oregon State greats Green, Charlie Sitton and Steve Woodside.
“I really believe that this is the beginning of our development into a program that is going to be challenging for the top spot in a short period of time,” Shappell quoted Olson as saying.
Arizona was 8-15 overall and 5-8 in the Pac-10 after that win. The Wildcats finished 11-17 in Olson’s first year — the only losing season of his 24-year tenure at the school. In the very next season, in 1984-85, Arizona started a string of 25 straight NCAA tournament appearances. It advanced to the Final Four four times and won the title in 1996-97.
The school-record shooting performance by Arizona against Midwestern in 1975 topped the previous top mark of 67.2 percent set the previous year by Snowden’s club against Wyoming.
Arizona’s starters against Midwestern shot like this — Fleming 10 for 10, Len Gordy 5 for 5, Herman Harris 10 for 12, Bob Elliott 9 for 13 and Gilbert Myles 8 for 13.
“I was just shooting,” Harris told the Arizona Daily Star. “I had that little pop shot all night and I knew I couldn’t miss it. It was just like in practice.”
In the victory over Nicholls on Monday, the Wildcats made 38 of 53 shots from the field, led by Azuolas Tubelis’ 10-of-12 performance. Oumar Ballo was 5 for 6, Adama Bal 4 for 5 and Henri Veesaar was 3 for 3.
Arizona true freshman Dylan Anderson (2 for 2) and the Wildcat walk-ons contributed to the record-shooting night. Jordan Mains, Matthew Lang and Will Menaugh (Catalina Foothills grad) combined to make 3 of 4 attempts.
“I think it’s really going to reinforce that when you play with fundamentals and do things the right way we can be really, really good,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said about Arizona scoring the most points since a 127-99 win over ASU in the 1997-98 season.
“We work on finishing every single day. To shoot 71 percent and also attempt 40 free throws, I think that means we’re for the most part executing our game plan.”
Arizona program record for most points in a season-opener at 117 points in the 117-75 victory over Nicholls State.
Wildcats also set a school record shooting 71.7 percent from the field.
Somewhere up there Lute Olson and Fred “The Fox” Snowden are sharing a high-five and a smile.
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) November 8, 2022
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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.