Last night, in front of a home crowd, it went Arizona’s way (Do I think the influence of McKale Center had an impact on the outcome of the call? Do I think part of making the call had to do with the fact that, had the refs called the shot good, the fans would have rioted, ran out onto the court and strangled them to unconciousness? Absolutely, but such are the advantages of the home court, especially at McKale). Besides, the officiating in last night’s game was so bad that the Basketball Gods must have decided that the refs owed this game another five minutes to let the teams decide who the winner would be. With a blessing from the higher powers of Hoops above, I therefore cannot apologize for what happened to the Buffaloes last night. It simply went Arizona’s way.
But such has been the theme of the season: It has gone “Arizona’s way.” And though we’ve gotten more than our fair share of lucky bounces, we have also been on the other end of that bounce in plenty of seasons’ past, so I simply cannot feel guilty about it. Additionally, even a team that is lucky must still perform. When Arizona has been down, they have performed when it matters the most.
Arizona’s come-from-behind gameplay in the final minutes of crucial games this year reminds me of this classic Coffin Scene from Kill Bill. In other words, just when opponents have nailed the coffin and buried Arizona in a pile of dirt, the Wildcats have not allowed that to deter them–have not accepted their ultimate fate to lie down and die–instead punching their way out of the coffin and back to life.
What appeared to be the nail in the coffin for the Wildcats last night was when Colorado’s Askia Booker sank what seemed like Colorado’s fiftieth 3 point shot to put the Buffaloes up by 10 points with less than three minutes left in the game. But the Wildcats wasted no time, deciding it was time to stop hitting the snooze button on their alarm clock and wake up (I’m not even going to cover the first 36 minutes of the game–the stats and gameplay are discouraging…). In that three minute span, Arizona made 5 of 8 from the field, had no turnovers and hit 6 of their 7 free throw attempts. The Buffaloes, meanwhile, made no shots (or attempts for that matter) from the field, coughed up three turnovers off of steals and went only 7 of 12 from the free throw line (58%). In the span of less than three minutes, Arizona outscored their opponent 17-7 (an incredible average of 6 points per minute) with a determined will to score, a pesky defense and….well…some luck (opponents’ missed free throws).
When the game went into overtime, Colorado had no chance. A primary reason Arizona has been able to dominate the remaining minutes of games is due to their incredible depth. Opponents simply run out of gas at the end, while the Wildcats continue to slam their foot on the pedal with their abundant quantity of talent (Arizona had only two players play 35 minutes or more; Colorado had four). Teams cannot hang with Arizona for a full 40 minutes–adding five minutes to that clock is just unfair. In the final stretch of the game, Colorado could not buy a shot because their legs were simply finished. Without Ronde Jefferson (Colorado’s top rebounder and third best scorer), who fouled out near the end of regulation, the Buffaloes’ gameplan and inability to get the boards became more predictible. Add that to the momentum Arizona had already gained in the officials’ call going their way, and Colorado was utterly deflated.
We’ll take it.