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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    The odds of March claim the UA Again

    March 22, 1993 — Salt Lake City — This wasn’t the way Chris Mills had planned to go out.

    His last game as a University of Arizona player was supposed to come about two weeks from now, in New Orleans, where the Final Four is being held.

    The first day of the NCAA Tournament? The first round of the West Regionals on the Utah Utes’ home floor?

    A loss to Santa Clara?

    No way. Not this team. Not this year. This squad wanted to hoist the National Championship trophy high and parade it down Bourbon Street. It was the team’s single, all-encompassing goal for the season.

    A goal that strangled itself in the thin air Thursday with ah 64-61 loss to the Broncos, halting the Wildcats’ season much the same way as last year: with the wrong team — a mostly unheralded, practically unknown team, celebrating a first-round upset of Mills and gang.

    “”This really hurts, because I know I’ll never be able to put on an Arizona Wildcats uniform again,”” Mills said.

    Mills’ final game was made even more difficult by the fact that his final touch of the ball as a Wildcat was bobbling it out of bounds. He hit a three-pointer with eight seconds left in the game to cut Santa Clara’s lead to 64-61, and then UA sophomore guard Damon Stoudamire fouled freshman guard Steve Nash on the inbounds following a timeout.

    Nash, who had made six consecutive free throws as Arizona continued to foul on ever Santa Clara possession, missed both this time. The rebound went right into the hands of a leaping Mills, who knocked it out of bounds.

    “”It was indicative of the type of night we had were they miss he (free throws), Chris goes up and it goes out of his hands. I’ve dealt with him for four years, and I’ve never had a guy with as good hands as he has,”” UA coach Lute Olson said.

    Arizona had one more chance, after freshman forward Kevin Dunne missed tow more free throws with 5.1 seconds remaining, and Stoudamire got the rebound. He worked the ball down the court and threw up an NBA three-pointer from the left side that hit the back of the rim.  

    “”At that time, I was just trying to get the ball up-court as soon as possible and get the shot off,”” Stoudamire said. “”I thought I got the shot I wanted, I went up, and someone went up with me. That altered my shot, and it banked. If I had it do over again, I could have taken a couple more dribbles or passed it to the left or right.””

    Said Olson: “”With five second left, you have no choice but to bust it down court. He had no passing lanes open, as far as I could see. He did the best he could.””

    But that was only the culmination f the game, one play among hordes of them that easily could have gone the other way.

    So what went wrong?

    • Nerves: Olson said he thought the freshman would be the most affected by the pressure of the Tournament, and he was right when center Joseph Blair is concerned. Blair was so rattled he only played three minutes, missing his only shot attempt.

    But the nervousness extended outside the freshman class too, particularly to Stoudamire, who got a case of Matt Othic-itis (the former UA guard went scoreless against East Tennessee State in the first round last year). Stoudamire came into the game with an 11.2 points per game average on 45 percent shooting, second on the team in three-point shooting at 39 percent, and led the Wildcats in assists (155) and steals (43).

    But against Santa Clara, Stoudamire was a different player. He went 6 of 6 from the free-throw line, but didn’t score from any other part of the floor, going 0 for 7 and committing six of Arizona’s 11 turnovers.

    “”Some of the credit has to go to the job (Broncos junior guard John) Woolery did on Stoudamire, stopping his penetration,”” Olson said.

    • Foul Trouble: As if the stigma of last year’s first-round loss following Arizona into this year’s Tournament weren’t enough, the UA backcourt picked up fouls at an unusually quick pace Thursday. Stoudamire, Mills and junior guard Khalid Reeves each had two by the 10-minute mark of the first half, and the two guards had three apiece by halftime.

    But what hurt Arizona most was Mills getting whistled for tow more fouls in the first five minutes of the second half. Arizona had come from 12 down in the first half to take a two-point halftime lead, and then extended its lead to 13 before Mills picked up No. 4 and had to leave the game.

    In the next 10 minutes with Mills on the bench, the Wildcats managed only six points, and one field goal. And Arizona’s next field goal didn’t come until Mills hit at here-pointer with eight seconds left in the game. By that time, Santa Clara had the 64 points it needed to win the game.

    “”The biggest news was Christ spending extended time on the bench,”” Olson said. “”(The Wildcats) had run off 25 straight points, and had it up to a 13-point lead. And in that 10 minutes or so we had to sit Christ, we didn’t core. There’s not questions that just killed us, especially on a night when we weren’t getting the normal contribution we would get in other positions.””

    •Shot Selection: With five minutes left in the first half and the Wildcats trailing by 10, senior center Ed Stokes took a 20-fot jumper from the top of the key. Enough said.

    •Rebounding: Coming into the game, the Wildcats had the nation’s best rebounding margin at 9.8, and had outrebounded all but three opponents. Make that four — Santa Clara pulled own 50, to the UA’s 36.

    “”More than anything, I’m surprised at our team, how we didn’t rebound,”” Stokes said.

    •Santa Clara: It probably could have been Anonymous U. for all it mattered to Arizona. All told, it wasn’t so much what the Broncos did, but what the Wildcats failed to do.

    “”This is one of the biggest disappointments I’ve seen as far as the team is concerned,”” Olson said.

    “”They came as close individually and team-wise to reaching their potential as any team I’ve seen. That’s what makes it so hard to go out as early as we did.””

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