March 18 Arizona Wildcats NCAA tourney history: Best of times, worst of timesby Javier Morales on Mar. 18, 2011, under Sports
The day Arizona starts its Sean Miller NCAA tournament chapter is a day that produced one of the Wildcats’ greatest victories and most forgettable defeats in March Madness history.
The Wildcats defeated UNLV 114-109 in overtime in the NCAA West Regional semifinal on March 18, 1976. The No. 2-seeded Wildcats were upset 64-61 by Santa Clara and Steve Nash on March 18, 1993.
Obscure fact: When the Wildcats face Memphis and former player and assistant coach Josh Pastner on Friday morning, it will mark the program’s 10th NCAA tournament game played on March 18. That’s the most games in a day in Arizona’s NCAA tournament history, two more than March 16.
The Wildcats’ record on March 18 is 5-4. Too bad for those superstitious Arizona fans that the Cats’ first-round game was not on Thurs., March 17. The Wildcats are 3-0 in the NCAA tournament on March 17.
Performances in Arizona’s monumental 1976 win over the Running Rebels, coached by Jerry Tarkanian, still litter the UA postseason record book. Fred Snowden‘s Wildcats advanced the farthest in school history at the time — only a game away from the Final Four — behind Herman Harris‘ 31 points.
Harris’ scoring output ranks second in NCAA tournament scoring, behind Khalid Reeves‘ 32 against Loyola (Md.) in an 81-55 win on — yes, March 18, 1994.
Harris scored 16 of the Wildcats’ final 27 points in regulation against UNLV. He also hit the tying shot with 14 seconds left in regulation.
The 114 points against the Rebels in Los Angeles remains a tournament record for the Wildcats. Remember, the game was played before the NCAA instituted the shot clock and three-point line. The Wildcats could have actually scored a lot more. They made an Arizona NCAA tournament record-low 56.5 percent (26 of 46) of their free-throw attempts against UNLV.
Jim Rappis posted 12 assists in the game, one less than Reggie Geary‘s UA tournament record against Iowa on March 17, 1996. Phil Taylor‘s 15 rebounds against the Rebels, are one less than Al Fleming‘s 16 two days later in a loss to UCLA in the regional final and A.J. Bramlett‘s 16 in a first-round win over South Alabama (March 13, 1997) during the UA’s national title run.
Rappis, who also scored 24 against UNLV, played in the second half with a noticeable limp after hurting his left heel six minutes before halftime.
“Jimmy is the epitome of courage,” Snowden told reporters.
Six players fouled out and a total of 63 fouls were called. Rappis’ scoring and assists combined with that of Harris (who also had nine assists) accounted for 97 of Arizona’s points against UNLV, which was 29-1 heading into the game. Arizona finished that season 24-9.
“I just don’t know what to say,” Tarkanian is quoted as saying after the game. “Arizona deserves all the credit. They played a great game.
“Our kids have worked so hard and so long, it’s a shame to see it all end now.”
Former UA coach Lute Olson had a similar reaction when the Wildcats were stunned 64-61 by Nash’s Santa Clara Broncos in 1993. The loss came a season after No. 14 seed East Tennessee State upset the No. 3 Wildcats 87-80 in the first round.
Arizona lost to Santa Clara despite going on one of its patented runs, 25-0 between the first and second halves. The Wildcats seemed to be in command with a 46-33 lead with 15:26 left in the game. But that’s when leading scorer Chris Mills was assessed his fourth foul, requiring him to sit for almost 10 minutes.
Arizona (24-4) managed only one field goal the rest of the way until Mills hit a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds to pull the Wildcats within 64-61. They could get no closer. Damon Stoudamire‘s desperation 23-footer at the buzzer hit the back of the rim.
“I don’t feel jinxed,” Olson told the media. “At this time, I’m just frustrated we didn’t play more the way we’re capable of playing.”
Some other March 18 NCAA tournament data for the Wildcats:
>> Olson achieved his first NCAA tournament victory at Arizona with a 90-50 rout of Cornell on March 18, 1988. Olson had lost in the first round at Arizona in consecutive years from 1985-87 before that victory. The Wildcats advanced to their first Final Four that year.
>> A 94-68 win over Clemson on March 18, 1989 sent the Wildcats into the Sweet 16 in Sean Elliott‘s senior season, but they lost to UNLV 68-67 five days later.
>> Another victory on March 18 (in the 2001 tourney) was a 73-52 rout over Butler in the second round. The Wildcats advanced to the championship game that season.
>> Other losses on March 18 include second-round setbacks to Alabama (77-55 in 1990) and Wisconsin (66-59 as a No. 1 seed in 2000), and a first-round loss to Seton Hall (80-76 in 2004).
>> The Wildcats posted the most turnovers (31) in their NCAA tournament history against UNLV in 1976. They achieved their best free-throw percentage (94.4, 17 of 18) in the 2001 win over Butler. And Joseph Blair made all six of his field-goal attempts against Loyola (Md.) in 1994, giving him the record of a 1.000 shooting percentage (minimum six attempts required).