Some things in life cannot be explained.
To that list add this:Santa Clara University 64, University of Arizona 61.
This was a Rod Serling-Stephen King collaboration. Sure, Serling's passed on to The Great Beyond, but his fingerprints were all over this one, regardless of where he is.
The victory by Santa Clara in the West subregional Thursday night at the Huntsman Center merely equaled the biggest upset in NCAA postseason history. Only one other time has a No. 15 seed defeated a No. 2 seed. Two years ago 15th seeded Richmond shocked second seeded Syracuse, 73-69.
"I have few words right now," said Santa Clara coach Dick Davey in the postgame interview session.
What could he say?
It wasn't so much that the Santa Clara Broncos won, but how they did it that was so astonishing.
Wasn't it Davey, who said Wednesday night that to have a chance to beat the fifth-ranked team in the country, 24-3 Pac-10 champ Arizona, his team would have to play a near-perfect game?
The Broncos were far from perfect.
Consider these statistics:
- They made just 4 of 22 three-point attempts (0 for 11 in the second half), after making their last nine in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game against Pepperdine to eke into the tourney with an 18-11 record.
- They shot just 37 percent from the field and only 60 percent from the free-throw line.
- And (and this is the really incredible statistic, the one where Serling-King surely had a hand if not an arm in) during an almost 10 minute stretch, from the last 5 minutes of the first half to the first 5 of the second half, they were outscored, 25-0. That's right fellow Twilight Zoners, 25-0!
That points out how incredibly bad Arizona's Wildcats played for the other 30 minutes, in which they were outscored to the tune of 64-36.
A lot of that was due to the hard-nosed play of the Broncos.
Try and figure this statistic out (a statistic which may have been the most telling of the game): Santa Clara is smaller and slower and yet the Broncos had a huge rebounding advantage, 50-36.
"We had a number of problems, but it starts on the boards . . . that (50-36 rebounding advantage for the Broncos) killed us," said Arizona coach Lute Olson. "Obviously, the shooting was atrocious," he added.
The Wildcats, in the last 151/2 minutes of the game made two baskets. Two! They shot just 25 percent in the second half, 6 for 24, and just 30 percent for the contest.
This was a game of three streaks. Santa Clara had the first and third runs and Arizona the giant middle one.
Arizona started out with a modest 7-4 lead and then the Broncos got it going when forward John Eisenrich hit a 3. Eisenrich, point guard John Woolery, and forward DeWayne Lewis led the Broncos on a 29-14 streak, Santa Clara going up 33-21 with 4:43 to play in the half.
Time out Arizona. And goodbye for 10 minutes, Santa Clara.
The Wildcats pressed and played flawlessly for that stretch, turning a 12 point deficit into a 13-point advantage, 46-33, with 15:26 to play.
The Broncos ended their scoreless streak at 15:05 on a baseline drive by Mark Schmitz.
What was far worse for the Wildcats than having the streak ended was having their star, All-American Chris Mills, pick up his fourth foul with 15:11 to play and take his 20-plus points per game and leadership to the bench.
With Mills looking on, the Broncos methodically worked their way back into the game, taking the lead, 50-49, on a basket by Woolery with 6:17 left. Arizona came back on a basket by Ed Stokes, the Wildcats' first basket since the 15:26 mark, to regain the lead, 52-51. They increased it to 53-51 on a free throw by Ray Owes. But a free throw by Eisenrich and his baseline jumper with 2:49 left gave the Broncos a 54-53 lead which they would never lose.
Six straight free throws by freshman Steve Nash, the hero against Pepperdine, propelled the Broncos to a six point lead, 64-58 with 17 seconds left.
Mills, who returned with about 5 minutes to play, brought the Wildcats within three, 64-61, with 9 seconds to play on a 3-point bomb. And when Nash, who was a perfect 8 for 8 from the line at the time, missed two free throws with 7 seconds left, and then Kevin Dunne missed another two with 5 seconds left after being fouled while getting the rebound, the Wildcats had one last chance to send the game into overtime.
Damon Stoudamire raced up the court and let it fly from beyond the 3-point line with a second to play. The ball clanged off the back of the rim, and Santa Clara advanced to the round of 32 Saturday to play Temple.
"I'm just elated with what went on, the way our players handled adversity," a relieved Davey said in his brief statement.
Eisenrich led Santa Clara with 19 points, Lewis adding 13 and Schmitz and Nash 10 each. Mills had 19 for Arizona, Stokes 12 and Khalid Reeves 10.