Great Games Remembered – Arizona & Dukeby Steve Rivera on Mar. 22, 2011, under Sports
It seems the rivalry between Arizona and Duke has gone on forever. But, in fact, it’s just been a little more than 20 years, save for a game played in 1961.
They’ve mostly been classics. Three made my book, “University of Arizona Basketball Vault’’ and in all truth another game should have made the cut. It arguably may have been the best one, played here in Tucson for the annual Fiesta Bowl Classic.
Arizona beat Duke 91-85.
“We jumped out to a big lead and they came back,’’ Arizona’s Sean Elliott said this week, remembering specific plays as though the game were yesterday.
“Danny (Ferry) hit some big shots to get them back in. We made some big late game plays. That was pretty impressive for them to come here and give us a challenge. I give them a lot of respect. What was wrong with Lute putting us through all those tough games? They were all powerhouses. We had a hell of a schedule. Duke hung with us.’’
On Feb. 26, 1989 in East Rutherford, N.J., Elliott helped lead UA to a victory. UA raced out to a 30-11 lead, but No. 9 Duke charged back to take an eight-point lead into the second half. A 3-pointer by Elliott gave UA a 73-70 lead, and the game wasn’t in hand until Duke’s Christian Laettner missed a free throw with one second left.
“It was probably a game they should have won,’’ Elliott said this week. “But we played North Carolina earlier in the year in a game I thought we should have won. They were good games.”
Two years later, Arizona faced Duke in Tucson. The game lived up to its hype as No. 7 Duke faced No. 9 Arizona. No team took full control over the other, although UA’s Brian Williams picked up his third foul in the first half. Eventually, Sean Rooks hit a jumper to send the game into overtime; Chris Mills hit a jumper to send it into double overtime. Arizona survived to send its homecourt winning streak to 61 games.
The 2001 game is one UA fans like to forget, even if it was the NCAA title game. Duke beat Arizona 82-72 in Minneapolis in a matchup of the two top teams from the Associated Press’ preseason poll: No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 2 Duke.
Arizona couldn’t stop the 3-pointer as it gave up nine treys in Duke’s winning performance. UA’s Loren Woods had 22 points and 11 rebounds as Gilbert Arenas and Luke Walton played through injuries. UA went into the game on an 11-game winning streak but couldn’t pull it out.
To read more about some of Arizona’s biggest games pick up the book – “University of Arizona Basketball Vault’’ through me at Steve.Rivera95@gmail.com