Javier Morales took first place in the 2010 Arizona Press Club’s Metro Sports Reporting category
1987-88 Arizona Wildcats (35-3)
–Beat North Carolina 70-52 in the West Regional Final; lost to Oklahoma 86-78 in the Final Four. To note: The Wildcats of 1987-88 continue to hold school records for victories (35), points in a season (3,234), average margin of victory (22.9 points), field goals made (1,147), field-goal percentage (54.5 percent), three-point field-goal percentage (48.3), fewest foul-outs (only six), and fewest blocked shots by opponents (only 1.4 a game).
2010-11 Arizona Wildcats (30-8)
–Lost to Connecticut 65-63 in the West Regional Final. To note: The 2010-11 Wildcats set school records for three-point field goals made (296) and opponent three-point field-goal percentage (only 29.3 percent).
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Steve Kerr (1984-1988) vs. Lamont “MoMo” Jones (2009-2011)
A Kerr vs. Jones matchup at the starting point guard spot is as contrasting as this Elite Eight event can muster. Kerr is the cool, calm and collected player from the serene beach town of Pacific Palisades, Calif., while Jones is the rough and tumble, get-in-your-face player from Brooklyn.
Their polar-opposite characteristics is indicative of the different capabilities each team had to offer. The teams had one thing in common: They share the record for playing the most games in a season (38) in the program’s history. But more contrasts exists than similarities.
The 1987-88 Wildcats, led by the deft outside shooting of Kerr, shot a school-record 48.3 percent from three-point range. The 2010-11 edition, captained by the defensively active Jones on the perimeter, held opponents to a school-record low of 29.3 percent from three-point range.
Who would win the battle? The 1987-88 team with its offensive perfection or the 2010-11 team with its defensive prowess?
Kerr set UA records shooting 57.3 percent from three-point range and posting an assist-to-turnover ratio of almost 5-to-1 (150 assists compared to only 36 turnovers). Jones was not as good of a shooter making only 31.6 percent of his three-pointers last season. But he converted 82.8 percent of his free-throw attempts and was clutch in memorable victories over California, scoring a career-high 27 points in a three-overtime game in Berkeley, and Duke, with 16 points, six assists and no turnovers in the Sweet 16 game.
Kerr was the model of reliability and consistency. Little-known fact: Kerr played all 50 minutes (a school record) in a double-overtime 79-72 victory over Cal at McKale Center on Jan. 12, 1986.
Jones is the only starter on an Arizona Elite Eight team who transferred to another school. He switched to Iona this season to be closer to home so he can be near his ailing grandmother. The NCAA granted Jones, a junior, a hardship waiver and allowed him to play this year for Iona.