Arizona Basketball

Buzzer-beater blues? Try some of Arizona’s greatest game-winning shots to ease the pain

The 60-foot buzzer-beating shot by Arizona State’s Desmond Cambridge Jr. to upset Arizona at McKale Center on Saturday was one of those miracle shots that will always be remembered — or if you’re a Wildcat fan, it is one to forget.

Feeling those buzzer-beating blues, Arizona fans?

Trying to erase the image of Arizona State’s players celebrating on McKale’s court after Cambridge’s what-the-heck shot?

Here is one idea (brought to me by longtime Tucson sports scribe Anthony Gimino) for a remedy that lists Arizona’s most memorable buzzer-beating shots, starting with these legendary finishes with wins over ASU:

Dateline Tempe, Jan. 11, 1969: “A clutch shot by Jim Hansen with three seconds left to play gave Arizona an 81-80 victory over Arizona State … This is only the second time since 1957 that Arizona has won a basketball game on the Arizona State court.” — Abe Chanin, Arizona Daily Star

Dateline Tucson, Nov. 26, 1976: “It wasn’t decided until 6-foot-4 junior Tim Marshall, who had started but sat on the bench much of the game, drove across the key and laid a two-foot shot in the basket with two seconds left on the clock (in Arizona’s 92-91 overtime win over ASU).” — Bruce Johnston, Tucson Citizen

Dateline Tempe, Nov. 26, 1977: “Sophomore Joe Nehls hit a 20-foot jump shot with four seconds left to give Arizona a 72-70 victory over Arizona State in the 1977-78 college basketball opener for both teams.” — Dave Adam, Arizona Daily Star

Eddie Smith (Arizona Athletics photo)

Dateline Tempe, Feb. 17, 1984: “Arizona forward Eddie Smith made a basket at the buzzer to defeat archrival Arizona State, 65-64, in front of an announced crowd of 6,716 at the University Activity Center. … The victory gives Arizona its first season sweep of ASU since the 1969-70 season.” — Bob Moran, Arizona Daily Star

Dateline Tempe, Jan. 5, 1985: “ASU was ahead by two when Eddie Smith drove toward the basket, was clobbered by Bobby Thompson and put up the ball in more of a scooping than shooting motion. Smith went down, the ball went up, and in, and so did Smith’s foul shot after he picked himself up. All this with four seconds to go. Arizona 61, ASU 60. That’s how it ended.” — Bob Cohn, Arizona Republic

Dateline Tempe, March 5, 2005: “When Arizona guard Salim Stoudamire pulled up for an 11-foot jumper with 0.6 seconds left to give Arizona a 70-68 victory over ASU at Wells Fargo Arena, his coach (Lute Olson) gained both his 11th Pac-10 championship and the conference’s all-time victory record with 305.” — Bruce Pascoe, Arizona Daily Star

Dateline Tempe, Jan. 21, 2021: “James Akinjo insisted not once but twice his last-second heave to the basket wasn’t a shot but a lob to give an open Azuolas Tubelis a chance at a shot. If that was the case, well it was perfect. When told that’s what Akinjo said UA coach Sean Miller almost smirked. Almost. The official scorekeeper will also have to revisit the replay given what Akinjo said. It was a pass and not a shot like the game officials listed it as. Whatever the case, it worked for Arizona in its 84-82 last-second win over Arizona State. When Tubelis hit his first-game winner ever (according to him) UA’s bench – including coach Jason Terry – ran around like they had won something big. Hell, they did, winning for the first time in Tempe since 2018.” — Steve Rivera,

Azuolas Tubelis celebrates his buzzer-beater at ASU in 2021 (Arizona Athletics photo)

Three New York City natives for Arizona stunned Stanford at Maples Pavilion —

— Sean Rooks’ last-second bank shot in 1991 gave the Wildcats a 78-76 victory.

— Khalid Reeves’ coast-to-coast game-winner with less the five seconds cut down the Cardinal in 1992.

— MoMo Jones’ 16-foot bank shot at the buzzer gave Arizona a 71-69 win over the Cardinal in 2010.

More buzzer-beaters against Stanford:

— Michael Wright’s shot in the lane with three seconds left toppled the No. 1 Cardinal at Maples Pavilion in 2001.

— Jason Terry upset No. 3 Stanford a with shot in the lane in waning seconds of 1999 thriller at McKale Center.

Craig McMillan goes up for his game-winner against Oregon State in 1986 (YouTube video)

The legendary shots:

— Craig McMillan’s McClutch shot at the buzzer from a full-court pass from Steve Kerr against Oregon State in 1986 was one of Olson’s first shining moments.

— Miles Simon’s 65-foot bank shot as time expired to beat Cincinnati in Phoenix in 1996 on a day when Olson earned his 500th career victory.

Another from the Fred Snowden era:

Arizona 6-10 center Bob Elliott’s 35-foot jumper at the buzzer beat Kansas State at McKale Center in 1973.

Other classic last-second plays:

— Chris Mills’ buzzer-beating jumper in regulation gave Arizona life in its 105-94 overtime victory over UCLA in the 1991 epic matchup at Pauley Pavilion.

— Richard Jefferson made a tap-in at the buzzer following Jason Terry’s missed three-pointer to beat Washington in 1999.

— Nic Wise’s game-winning last-second shot in double-overtime against USC in 2010 put a satisfying cap to his tumultuous career playing for four different coaches in four years.

— Mark Lyons’ driving, one-handed shot in the waning seconds against No. 5 Florida on Dec. 15, 2012 down the Gators just hours after the Wildcat football team miraculous came back to beat Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl.

Derrick Williams did not make a last-second shot but his emphatic blocked shot in the waning seconds against Washington in 2011 saved the game for Arizona.

— More clutch defense: Nick Johnson on Christmas Day in 2012 gave Arizona fans a gift with a game-saving blocked shot against San Diego State at the end.

More Salim Stoudamire Specials:

— His game-winning jumper downed Oklahoma State in the 2005 Sweet 16.

— His very long-distance 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left beat UCLA at McKale in 2005.

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! 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, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, 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.

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