This Day in March Madness History
March 18, 1993
Santa Clara vs. Arizona
- The Setup
Arizona entered as a 2-seed, one step above their third seed in 1992 when they lost to 14. East Tennessee State in the first round. After another successful regular season, the Wildcats entered their game against Santa Clara hoping to exorcise some of their postseason demons. Despite appearing in their ninth straight tournament, Arizona had advanced past the second round only three times in that span, venturing deeper than the Sweet 16 on just one occasion.
Santa Clara was a little-known 15th seed, making just their second tournament appearance since 1970. They hadn’t won a non-consolation NCAA Tournament game since 1969. They hardly seemed like an intimidating opening round matchup for the Wildcats.
- How it went down
Santa Clara came roaring out of the gates, shooting very well for the first 15 minutes. They also played smothering defense, and, as a result, led Arizona 33-21 with just under five minutes to play in the half. But the Broncos went cold, and Arizona heated up, scoring fourteen straight to claim a 35-33 halftime advantage.
Arizona continued their momentum from the first half by starting off the second half with eleven straight points – for a combined 25-0 run that gifted the Wildcats a 46-33 lead with 15 minutes to play. Against an ice cold underdog squad, the lead seemed pretty secure. However, Arizona’s leading scorer, Chris Mills, had to take a seat with four fouls to his name, and Santa Clara took advantage. They slowly chipped away at the lead, outscoring the Wildcats 16-6 while Mills sat, closing their gap to 52-49. Mills re-entered with 5:21 left, but his presence did very little for Arizona, who proceeded to not hit another field goal until there were 8 seconds left on the clock. By that point, Santa Clara had taken a 64-58 lead, but Mills drilled a triple to bring the Wildcats back within three points. Taking center stage for the Broncos during their comeback was little-known freshman Steve Nash, who was just 1-7 from the field but made eight consecutive free throws to help stave off the Wildcats. Nash and a teammate did combine to miss four free throws in the final ten seconds, but a desperation heave from Arizona clanged off the rim, giving Santa Clara the victory. It was just the second 15-over-2 upset in NCAA Tournament history.
- The Aftermath
As most 15-seeds do, the Santa Clara Broncos lost their next game, their magical upset of Arizona representing their only win. They lost to a strong Temple squad, who ran all the way to the Elite Eight as a seventh seed. They have gone 1-2 in two NCAA Tournament appearances since that loss, and they haven’t gone dancing since 1996.
Arizona finally shook off whatever postseason jinx was holding them back, advancing all the way to the Final Four in 1994. In 1997, the Wildcats finished the job, taking home a national title, the only one in program history.
- NBA Notables (Teams they played 100+ games for)
Arizona – Khalid Reeves (6 teams in 6 years), Chris Mills (Warriors, Knicks), Damon Stoudamire (Trailblazers, Raptors, Grizzlies)
Santa Clara – Steve Nash (Suns, Mavericks)