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.
You can access the entire series by clicking here.
4. “Popcorn” Norman threatens Arizona’s scoring record with 44 points at BYU despite painful corn on his foot
Before there was Jimmer Fredette there was Coniel Norman as a record-breaking scorer in the BYU-Arizona series.
Fredette set a McKale Center scoring record with his 49 points in the Cougars’ 99-69 rout of Arizona on Dec. 28, 2009 — 35 years after Norman lit up BYU with a Marriott Center-record 44 points in the Wildcats’ 93-91 win at Provo, Utah, on Jan. 25, 1974.
“Popcorn,” as the late Norman was nicknamed, remarkably had a career performance despite suffering from ironically a corn on his right foot.
A part of his shoe was cut and taped over to alleviate pressure where the painful hardened skin was on his foot.
“Yeah, I know how many points points I had tonight,” Norman, a sophomore, told Steve Weston of the Tucson Citizen after the epic performance. “And I remember how many I had here last year — eight.”
Norman’s low production as a freshman was a result of him suffering from a sprained left index finger. He later scored 38 points against BYU at McKale Center that season.
In his 44-point outburst against the Cougars in front of 22,670 fans at the Marriott Center, he made 19 of 31 shots from the field and 6 of 8 from the free-throw line. Remember, this was well before the 3-point shot and shot clock were instituted by the NCAA.
His scoring total was two points shy of Ernie McCray’s school-scoring record of 46 points at Bear Down Gym against Cal State Los Angeles in the 1959-60 season. McCray’s mark remains the record to this day.
Norman’s 19 shots made from the field broke the program record of 17, held jointly by Norman (against Wyoming the previous season) and Joe Skaisgir (against Hardin-Simmons and the 1961-62 season).
Snowden, in his second season as Arizona’s coach, told Weston of the victory, that improved Arizona to 12-5 overall, “the biggest win since I’ve been here.”
“We were swinging Coniel off of what we call an ‘automatic,'” he continued explaining Norman’s 31 attempts. “(Arizona guards) Eric (Money) and (Jim) Rappis didn’t miss him one time, not one time.”
BYU coach Glenn Potter told the Deseret News that the Cougars “tried every way possible to stop Norman.”
“We zoned about 12 minutes in the first half and 10 the second. We manned him the rest of the way. No defense we tried stopped him. He’s just a pure shooter even with a hand in his face.”
ARIZONA PLAYERS WITH AT LEAST 40 POINTS IN A GAME
- Ernie McCray, 46 vs. Cal State Los Angeles, Feb. 6, 1960
- Damon Stoudamire, 45, at Stanford, Jan. 14, 1995
- Coniel Norman, 44, at BYU, Jan. 25, 1974
- Al Fleming, 44, vs. Detroit, Jan. 10, 1976
- Khalid Reeves, 40, vs. Michigan, Dec. 30, 1993
- Damon Stoudamire, 40, at Washington State, March 2, 1995
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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.