Houston’s Aubrey Coleman stepped on Chase Budinger. But he could not totally stomp out the Arizona Wildcats today.
Trailing by 10 points with 52 seconds left in regulation, despite having a surge of intensity from the flagrant foul that saw Coleman ejected from the game midway through the second half, the Wildcats managed to send it to overtime on a three-pointer from Nic Wise with 10 seconds left.
Then they won 96-90 in overtime, when Houston missed all 10 field goals it attempted and Jordan Hill made a three-point play. The Wildcats also made 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch the close the Cougars out.
The win prevented a fourth straight loss for the Wildcats, who have not lost more than three straight in a quarter-century. It also left UA with some hope for the postseason, at 12-8 overall despite a 2-5 Pac-10 record.
Houston dropped to 12-5.
The Cougars shot only 36.1 percent from the field and threw up 83 attempts while benefiting from 24 UA turnovers. Kelvin Lewis led the Cougars with 33 points.
For Arizona, Hill had 30 points and 18 rebounds while Nic Wise added 23 points. Budinger added 15 points on 6-for-17 shooting while Kyle Fogg had 14.
In overtime, Hill converted a three-point play with 3:55 left while the Cougars sputtered offensively.
Jamelle Horne made it 92-88 by hitting 1 of 2 free throws with 26 seconds left in overtime, while Kyle Fogg and Hill hit two each in the final seven seconds to put the game away.
The Wildcats entered the final minute of regulation appeared headed toward their fourth straight defeat. They trailed 85-75 after Kelvin Lewis made two free throws with 52 seconds left but had three-pointers from Wise and Budinger before capitalizing on a failed inbounds pass from Houston.
Arizona took the ensuing possession, and fed it to Jordan Hill, who scored to make it 88-85. Then, after UA fouled Lewis, the Cougars’ leading scorer inexplicably missed both free throws to give the Wildcats a chance to tie it. Wise then made a three-pointer with 10 seconds left to tie it at 88 and the Cougars missed two shots in the final seconds to allow overtime.
The Wildcats experienced a spike in intensity after Coleman collided with Budinger with 9:51 left. Coleman extended his left arm into Budinger after he crossed the midcourt line with the ball and was called for a charge -- then appeared to step on Budinger, who had been knocked to the ground on the play.
After officials reviewed the play, Coleman was called for the flagrant foul and ejected. Budinger, who was called for a technical himself after tangling with Coleman after he got up, made both ensuing free throws while Kelvin Lewis made 1 of 2 free throws for Houston.
That left the score at 64-53, and UA cut it to eight, 66-58, on a three-pointer from Kyle Fogg but the Cougars kept getting key jumpers to maintain a comfortable lead.
After Garland Judkins raced inside for a reverse layup to cut the lead to 74-68 with 5:35 left, and Wise drove inside for a blocked layup, Lewis returned with a three-pointer to make it 77-68 and the Wildcats didn’t make a final push until the last minute.
Houston scored seven straight points at the end of the first half to take a 38-31 halftime lead. The Cougars scored late after Horace McGloster tipped in a missed free throw by DaShaun Williams and Coleman made an 18-footer after a scramble for a loose ball.
Coleman led the Cougars in first half scoring with 12 points, while Hill had 13 for Arizona. The Wildcats outshot Houston 50 percent to 33 percent but had 11 turnovers and were outrebounded 21-18.
Arizona matched the Cougars’ uptempo pace early in the first half, but could never pull away. The Wildcats took their biggest lead of the first half, 31-25, with 5:59 left when Wise hit a three to cap a 7-0 run.
But Houston returned to tie the game at 31 quickly when Qa’rraan Calhoun hit a three pointer, and the Cougars made 3 of 4 free throws. From there, it remained close the rest of the half.
Arizona interim head coach Russ Pennell inserted both Alex Jacobson and Zane Johnson into the starting lineup for the second straight game, though both were out of the game after the first five minutes. Jacobson played eight minutes on Wednesday against Arizona State, scoring one point with no rebounds. Johnson played 30 but was 1 for 7 from three-point territory.