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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Missed free throw shouldn’t overshadow Tollefsen’s late game heroics

Tyler Baker
Arizona forward Mark Tollefson (23) prepares for a one-handed shot during the PAC-12 tournament semi-finals against Oregon in Las Vegas. The Wildcats are down 29-44 at half-time.

LAS VEGAS — The No. 4 seeded Arizona men’s lost a gut-churning thriller in overtime fashion to the top-seeded Oregon Ducks 95-89 Friday in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal.

With the Wildcats unable to defend the conference tournament, fingers will be pointed to who’s at fault and senior forward Mark Tollefsen should be thanked for putting the Wildcats in a position to win.

Just when it appeared to be the final nail in the coffin when Oregon guard Casey Benson hit the free throw to extend the Ducks lead 77-70 with 26 seconds left to play, it was Tollefsen coming up clutch with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

“We called the play and for me to slip for a three, I just let it go with confidence,” Tollefsen said.

With .7 seconds left to play in regulation, as Arizona trailed 77-76 after a Gabe York 3, the senior stole the inbound pass from Chris Boucher and immediately went up for a quick baseline floater only to get fouled by Dillon Brooks.

It may sound like it’s a walk in the park to sink two free-throws and win the game leaving a hero, but a packed MGM Grand Garden Arena can make anyone a choke artist.

Tollefsen missed the first free throw to leave everyone in cardinal red with a ghost-sighting expression on their face, but the senior forward gave the Wildcats an opportunity to take the game in overtime by nailing the second one. 

Read: Full recap of Arizona vs. Oregon Pac-12 Tournament semifinal  

“As a basketball player when you start as a young kid, you dream about those moments and for me I just tried to knock one down,” Tollefsen said. “I knew I had to get at least one down so we could get another opportunity and try to beat them in overtime, so I was glad I at least made one.”

To think if Tollefsen would’ve have made the second free throw, the Wildcats would have carried him off the court as Arizona would have fought their way out of another grind-it-out type game.

Tollefsen gave his team a shot to beat the No. 1 seed Ducks and with the Wildcats losing, some of the blame will be laid on him missing the first free throw.

“Would I like to have made both? Of course,” Tollefsen said. ”But like I said, to be able to give my team the opportunity to have another opportunity to beat these guys, I mean, that was good in my opinion.”

Arizona head coach Sean Miller gathered his senior class back in early February to talk about leaving a legacy behind at Arizona.Kaleb Tarczewski left his legacy in becoming the all-time win leader with the program, Gabe York hit the game-winning 3-pointer against California, Ryan Anderson averaged a double-double for the entirety of the season and Tollefsen had yet to leave his mark. No pun intended. 

Tollefsen’s final 30-seconds of regulation, extending the game was his shining moment, but the best has yet to arise according to York.

“Het got a lot left,” York said. “Him coming in to hit a 3-point shot and hit a free throw to send us into overtime just goes to show his character.”

Tollefsen didn’t have much on his resume to show that he will be a memorable player once he leaves the program, but he was thrown in with the lions late in the game and his poise at the end of thegame was a scenario he only thought of as a youth.

“Every basketball player and every kid in the nation thinks that to themselves at one point, so for me, I was trying to enjoy it,” Tollefsen said. “I was blessed to be in the situation.”

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter

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