Arizona Basketball

A look back at Arizona Wildcats’ rivalry with Utah in Salt Lake City in high-scoring 1970’s



The front page of the Tucson Citizen sports section after Utah defeated Arizona 121-106 in Salt Lake City on Jan. 19, 1974. A month later at McKale Center, Arizona extracted revenge on the Utes by winning 122-92.

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When Arizona lost at Utah 121-106 in a record-setting Western Athletic Conference game on Jan. 19, 1974, both teams combined for 168 field goal attempts, each shooting 84 times.

Those were the days of the late Freddie “The Fox” Snowden and a fast-break style of play he employed to bring enthusiasm to the program.

When the programs meet in a highly-anticipated Pac-12 game tonight, they might combine for 84 field goal attempts with defensive-minded Sean Miller and Larry Krystkowiak coaching. The teams posted a combined 94 attempts in Tucson last month in Arizona’s 69-51 victory.

The 227 points scored by Arizona and Utah in Salt Lake City 41 years ago is a WAC record for most combined points in a game.

Snowden did not criticize his team’s defense after the loss, despite Utah making 60 percent of their shots, instead mentioning to the Tucson Citizen: “When a team is shooting like that, there’s just not a heck of a lot anyone can do except try on defense. And that’s what my kids are doing.”

If a team scores 70 points against Arizona nowadays, steam comes out of Sean Miller’s ears. But the style of play in Snowden’s generation was different. He believed an up-and-down, NBA-style of play would fill the seats at the new McKale Center.


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He coached that to perfection without the shot clock and three-point line.

Only 35 days later at McKale, Arizona reversed the score against Utah, routing the Utes 122-92.

The Arizona-Utah rivalry was at its prime at that time in the WAC. During the rematch in Tucson, freshman guard Herman Harris was given a flagrant foul and ejected for allegedly taking a swing at a Utah player after teammate Eric Money was pushed into the basket standard in the first half.

You think Harris wants to send a message to fellow Chester, Pa., native Rondae Hollis-Jefferson about how much he wants Arizona to beat Utah tonight?

Money led the Wildcats with 30 points, followed by Bob Elliott (29), Coniel Norman (24) and Al Fleming (19), meaning those four players outscored Utah with 102 points.

The victory, which came after a 118-90 win over BYU at McKale, put Arizona atop the WAC standings with New Mexico with one week left in the season.

Exemplifying the ripeness of the rivalry with Utah, Money was quoted as saying by the Citizen: “They were hollering about out-running us (after the 121-106 loss at Salt Lake City). I read it in the papers all week. Well, they can run. But we can, too. And if it all counts on running, I win!”

The Citizen reported that Utah coach Bill Foster intentionally went into a stall late in the game when it appeared the Wildcats might eclipse Utah’s WAC record of 121 points established in the first game at Salt Lake City. Snowden’s team was able to do one point better, tit-for-tat.

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak only cares tonight about getting a victory in front of a raucous Huntsman Center to tie the Wildcats atop the Pac-12 standings.

History is on his side in terms of Arizona playing a ranked team in Salt Lake City.

The Wildcats are 0-5 in that situation against Utah but those games were more than 55 years ago:

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The Wildcats are actually 0-6 against ranked teams in Salt Lake City. They lost 87-65 on Dec. 11, 2010, against No. 18 BYU and Jimmer Fredette in the home arena of the Utah Jazz.

A victory tonight would assure the Wildcats of at least a share of the regular-season title. With Arizona beating Utah 69-51 last month in Tucson, don’t expect the score to go over 70 points for either team this time around.

It will be a far cry from what happened in Salt Lake City in 1974 when Snowden remarked with a smile to the Citizen, “They ‘output’ us. But I’m very proud of my kids … they never quit on me.”

The intensity will be just the same tonight. Instead of trying to outscore the opponent, Arizona will attempt to shut down Delon Wright with Hollis-Jefferson’s defense and go from there.


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Game 1 on Jan. 19, 1974, in Salt Lake City:

Game 2 on Feb. 23, 1974, in Salt Lake City:

[/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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