Sean Elliott on Duke: “We had some big games with them”by Steve Rivera on Mar. 21, 2011, under Sports
Back in the mid- to-late 1980s, all the Arizona basketball program wanted to do and be was a national title holder. It had a great chance in 1987-88 behind seniors Steve Kerr, Tom Tolbert and juniors Anthony Cook and Sean Elliott. It fell short in the Final Four. It also wanted to be a little like Duke, Final Four participants in 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992.
Arizona would have loved that. Some even thought Arizona was the Duke of the west with all its success – a small stretch but you get the point – save for the numerous Final Fours. Arizona sure played Duke like it was a Final Four game or a national championship.
“It was probably bigger for us than it was for them,’’ former UA All-American Elliott said in a telephone interview with regard to the match up back then. “We were trying to prove ourselves and they were already on the national level. They were well known but we had some big games with them.’’
Elliott was quick to point out, however, he did go 2-0 against the Blue Devils, beating Duke in the Fiesta Bowl Classic and then again at the Meadowlands.
“I was fortunate that we won both games because those games were some of the toughest we had ever played,’’ Elliott said. “They were always a pretty good battle.’’
He expects the same type of battle on Thursday when UA faces Duke in the Sweet 16 in Anaheim. But he isn’t surprised Arizona has reached this point.
“I like to say that however people read and rate the Pac-10 I put them up a couple more notches,’’ he said. “No one likes to pay attention. Winning the Pac-10 – no matter what the critics say – is tough and winning it is not easy. It means you have a good ballclub.’’
Elliott said he’s pretty proud of what the team has done, “but we knew he’d (Sean Miller) have the program moving in the right direction. Last year they were pretty young and this year they’ve played well. They’ve had some nice wins and to win the conference says a lot.’’