Simon 'just misses' repeat of late-game heroics

By Craig Sanders
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 16, 1996

In the world of college basketball the difference between being the hero and being the goat is a fine one. In the case of Arizona's Miles Simon, it is exactly four days.

When Simon missed a pair of free throws in the waning seconds of UCLA's 76-75 victory over the Wildcats last night, it was an instant contrast to his game-winning basket against Cincinnati. Simon's 70-foot basket in that game will long be remembered as "The Shot." His two missed free throws against UCLA may not be remembered as long, but it will certainly be close.

"I just missed the shot. I just missed them," Simon said. "Sometimes you make them, sometimes you don't."

But for the Wildcats, a pair of free throws with 25 seconds remaining would have gone a long way to not only securing the win, but allowing Arizona to hop back into the driver's seat in the Pacific 10 Conference race. Now the Wildcats must hope for a couple of late Bruin losses. Arizona head coach Lute Olson, however, was not playing the blame game.

"He just missed two shots. That happens," Olson said. "That's why you have to play every possession as if the game is on the line."

As the game wound down, it looked as if Simon was going to pull off another clutch performance. He scored Arizona's last two baskets, a tough jumper with 2:02 to go, then a 5-foot put back of his own miss with 1:09 left.

Then after a technical foul was called on UCLA for having six men on the court, Simon stepped to the line with only 25 seconds on the clock. When both of his shots bounced off of the iron and Arizona failed to covert on its next possession, the game was left in the hands of Bruin sophomore Kris Johnson, who was fouled by Joe McLean with one second left.. Johnson, a sophomore, hit his first free-throw and intentionally missed the next.

"The same situation occurred in high school," Johnson said. "He was on the free-throw line and he missed the shots. I made the free throws to win the game. He (Simon) has really been a clutch player this year. I was thankful - surprised, but thankful."

And now as Johnson receives the limelight for his clutch free throws, Simon would prefer to slip off into the shadows.

"It was a very big loss for us," Simon said. "It was a chance for us to be tied for first, but it's over now and we have to move on."