Sean Elliott

University of Arizona basketball player Sean Elliott gets ready to pass the ball during the 1989 NCAA Sweet 16 tournament against UNLV.

David Sanders / Arizona Daily Star

Ranked No. 1 entering the Sweet 16 against UNLV – a club that would win the national title a year later – Arizona traded blows with the Rebels for 39 minutes and 57 seconds, securing a 67-65 lead. Elliott, the national player of the year, was superb. He scored 22 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and was at his best.

But with a shade under 3 seconds remaining, UNLV guard Anderson Hunt seemed to give a forearm shove to UA guard Kenny Lofton, knocking Lofton to the floor — or did he flop? — and giving Hunt space to shoot. He drilled a 3-pointer. UNLV won 68-67.

Lofton wept for what seemed like hours. When Elliott left the interview podium, he embraced his mother, and began to sob. Someone asked Lute Olson if he was bitter at the “no call.’’

“Let’s have a show of hands,’’ he said, biting off the words. “Wouldn’t you think it’d be bitter? It ends our season. It’s bitter.’’ 

Sports columnist for the Arizona Daily Star.