Colorado 53, Arizona 51
BASKETBALL

Pac-12 tournament: Wildcats learn the Herd way

UA looking at NIT after feisty Buffaloes trample NCAA hopes
2012-03-11T00:01:00Z 2013-03-08T19:03:42Z Pac-12 tournament: Wildcats learn the Herd wayBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 11, 2012 12:01 am  • 

LOS ANGELES - Nearly a half-hour after the Arizona Wildcats gave up a guaranteed chance to return to the NCAA tournament Saturday, the jersey was still over Kyle Fogg's head.

For a senior who has experienced the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, the emotion was still too raw.

Colorado had out-stifled the Wildcats 53-51 to win the Pac-12 tournament title, and capture its new conference's automatic bid, and Fogg was the Buffs' final victim.

With Arizona unable to get a clean look at the basket on the game's final possession - and most of the game - Fogg threw up a final three-pointer that missed as time expired, the last chance Arizona had to take advantage of a crumbling Colorado effort in the final minutes.

The loss dropped Arizona to 23-11 and, barring a surprise NCAA tournament at-large bid for the Wildcats today, meant that Fogg's college career will end in the second-tier NIT.

Fogg declined comment by shaking his head, still keeping it fully wrapped in his jersey, and he wasn't the only one who didn't care to explain the loss. Teammate Solomon Hill, who had 13 points and five rebounds, was nowhere to be found for postgame interviews.

That left a few contributing players to say, really, what was no surprise to anyone.

"It's definitely a heartbreaker," said forward Jesse Perry, who had 11 points and eight rebounds. "You put so much time and energy into something, and the whole season, we've been fighting, fighting … we just couldn't get it done down the stretch."

Fogg's miss, which was reminiscent of the missed three-pointer Kevin Parrom was forced to throw up in a one-point loss at Colorado on Jan. 21, allowed the Buffs to hang on despite nearly blowing a 12-point second-half lead.

Over the final nine minutes of the game, Colorado missed nine straight field goal attempts, threw the ball out of bounds and watched center Austin Dufault miss two free throws.

Turns out, it was all a tease for a Wildcats team that shot only 36.7 percent from the field and was out-rebounded 37-29.

While both teams shot under 40 percent, making for a fitting final game between the conference's top two defenses, Arizona let up defensively over the first eight minutes of the second half, when Colorado outscored the Wildcats by 10 points.

"There was about 10 minutes there where they just handed it to us on offense," UA guard Nick Johnson said. "That was the big thing."

UA had held its own with the Buffaloes in the first half, trailing just 30-28 at halftime, but committed seven fouls over the first 8:16 of the second half while Colorado built a 12-point lead.

"We had no answer for them," UA coach Sean Miller said.

Arizona didn't begin making a move until less than eight minutes remained, when Angelo Chol scored inside to cut Colorado's lead to 50-40 and the Wildcats forced the Buffs into a shot-clock violation on their next possession.

But it ultimately proved too late, even as the Buffaloes appeared to tire from playing their fourth game in four days, missing all manner of jump shots and layups to let Arizona back in the game.

Finally, after the Buffs missed the nine field goals, Colorado guard Carlon Brown figured out the best way to make sure the ball went in the hole. He slashed through the UA defense and slammed the ball in, just as he had a night earlier to punctuate a win over California.

Brown was named the tournament's MVP, while Fogg, Hill and Perry were named to the all-tournament team.

"I'm telling you what," Colorado coach Tad Boyle said of Brown, "big players make big-time plays on big-time stages. What you saw out of Carlon Brown these last four games is he's a guy who kind of put this team on his shoulders. … And those windmill dunks are just icing on the cake."

For Arizona, of course, it was more like sour cream. More than Fogg's miss, Brown's dunk let everyone at Staples Center know which team was going to the NCAA tournament.

While the Wildcats have the same 23-11 record as Colorado, Arizona entered Saturday's game with an RPI of 73 and no team has made it into the NCAA tournament field at higher than 74, although that mark was set before the field expanded to 68 last season.

When asked if the Wildcats could still "sneak in" to the NCAA field, Miller answered emphatically.

"No," Miller said. "The loss at Arizona State (87-80 last Sunday) was very damaging to us."

Still, Miller spoke positively of the chance to play in the NIT, which will likely begin on Tuesday or Wednesday at McKale Center, and his players echoed the sentiment.

It won't be the postseason ride they have become accustomed to, but it's a ride nevertheless.

"I mean, it's still basketball," senior guard Brendon Lavender said. "At least my season won't be over and we can still play. People act like the NIT is still mediocre, but there's some really good teams in the NIT. We can still make a statement and show the world what we're made of.

"Of course, the NCAA tournament is still the main prize but realistically, it is what it is. You've gotta move on."

Selection Sunday

• What: NCAA tournament selection show

• When: 3 p.m. today

• TV: Channel 13

• What: NIT selection show

• When: 6 p.m. today

• TV: ESPNU

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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