This is how the official scorekeeper noted what would become the greatest second-half shooting performance in Arizona history:
16:53: Gordon three-pointer
16:37: Gordon in the paint
15:01: Johnson three-pointer
14:34: York three-pointer
13:43: Johnson jumper
13:04: Johnson misses three
12:52: Gordon dunk
11:02: Gordon dunk
10:23: Johnson jumper
9:52: Pitts three-pointer
9:16: Tarczewski dunk
7:09: Gordon layup
6:22: Gordon three-pointer
In 10 minutes and 31 seconds Saturday night, Arizona made 12 of 13 shots from the field. Its lead over Colorado grew from 37-33 to 72-47, all of it bracketed by Gordon’s bookend three-pointers.
Do you realize how unlikely that was? Gordon had made just one three-pointer since Dec. 19.
And it wasn’t limited to that specific 10:31. For the entire second half Saturday night in Boulder, Arizona shot 22 for 26 from the field. That’s .846 percent, the highest number in school history.
Arizona made 19 of its final 21 shots (that’s .904).
Gordon was 8 for 8.
Arizona was feelin’ it to such an extreme that its final four shots were recorded this way:
2:20: Mayes layup
1:44. Hazzard three-pointer
1:22: Hazzard jumper
0:38: Korcheck dunk
If you’re going to break a century-old record, you must go 4 for 4 in garbage time, too.
It surpassed every single-half shooting performance in modern Pac-12 history with the exception of a night in 1984 when Oregon State shot .917 in the second half against Washington State. But the ’84 Beavers attempted only 12 shots (making 11), and that doesn’t seem like enough to qualify as any sort of record.
The NCAA record is .941, when North Carolina made 16 of 17 second-half shots to beat Virginia in 1978. But that was before three-point baskets.
On Saturday at CU, Arizona was 7 for 9 (that’s .777) from three-point distance in the most sizzling half in school history.
Or was it?
Given the stakes (a potential No. 1 seed the NCAA tournament), the stage (ESPN) and the challenge of its manhood by CU’s Xavier Johnson, Arizona’s second-half performance goes beyond the school’s previous record, .821, set at Washington in 1998.
On that night, the Wildcats were 23 of 28 but won with ease, 110-91, meaning those shots didn’t carry the type of pressure that accompanied Saturday’s game at Colorado. (Don’t tell that to Mike Bibby, who went 8 for 9).
What made Saturday’s second half historic is that it edges into the picture of what I believe are the three almost untouchable halves in UA basketball history.
Tell me if you agree:
- In 1988, Arizona was ranked No. 3 when it played at Arizona State on Feb. 27. The Wildcats made 18 of 24 from the field in the first half (that’s .750). Point guard
- Steve Kerr
- scored 20 points, swishing six consecutive three-pointers.
The game, and Kerr, had special significance because he was taunted in pre-game warmups by ASU fans who chanted hate slogans about the terrorist assassination of his father, Malcolm Kerr, three years earlier in Beirut.
Arizona was so good that night it scored 12 times on 11 possessions during one period: 11 field goals and two free throws on a Sun Devil technical foul. UA forward Anthony Cook went 8 for 8 afield. Arizona won 101-73.
- On Jan. 25, 2003, No. 1 Arizona trailed No. 6 Kansas 52-39 at Allen Fieldhouse. In the next 20 minutes, the Wildcats shot .653, outscored the Jayhawks 52-22. It was stunning. KU had won 25 consecutive games at Allen Fieldhouse.
Salim Stoudamire scored 32 points (20 in the second half, including five three-pointers). Much like Saturday’s game in Colorado, it wasn’t subtle. Arizona opened the second half with a 10-0 run.
What did it mean? Nothing. Arizona lost at home to Stanford five days later. Stoudamire was 1 for 5 from the field in that game.
- At the 2011 Sweet 16, Arizona trailed No. 1 seed Duke 44-38 at halftime even though
- Derrick Williams
- scored 25 points.
The game memorably turned for Arizona but not because Williams was unstoppable. In the second half, as Arizona outscored Duke 55-33, the Wildcats shot .588 from the field, which included a 19-2 run. Williams scored just seven of the 55 points.
Arizona was so good in the second half that it made 9 of 12 (that’s .750) in one run, expanding its lead to 84-68, getting a dunk from, of all people, guard Brendan Lavender.
It could be 20 or 30 years until Arizona shoots 80 percent in a half again, or surpasses Saturday’s .846. It could be never.
The best half of college basketball I’ve ever seen was Iowa’s 1980 Elite Eight victory over mighty Georgetown. The fifth-seeded Hawkeyes shot .761 (making 17 of 21 shots) and also made 15 of 15 free throws in the second half.
That 81-80 masterpiece put Iowa coach Lute Olson on the map.
On Saturday in Boulder, Arizona performed a similar work of art.