A thin cinder block wall separates the press room from the visitor's locker room at Gill Coliseum, so thin that you could absorb the unhappiness and feel the vibrations from Sean Miller's hoarse voice Thursday night.
Arizona lost a game that seemed almost impossible to lose, 67-64, and by the time Miller left the arena his voice was strained. You had to stand close to make out what he was saying to avoid, for instance, having to read his lips.
This is what he said: "We had five winning plays in the last four minutes."
This is what he didn't say: Those five plays resulted in an air ball, a missed three-point attempt, a missed free throw on the front side of a one-and-one situation, two shots that were blocked in one sequence, and a final, fatal shot that was blocked with 14.2 seconds remaining.
Other than that, no problem.
The Wildcats didn't score in the final 4:10, and if you were unhappy that the game wasn't televised, don't be. The first 10 minutes, when the Wildcats couldn't solve Oregon State's 1-3-1 zone defense, falling behind 14-3, and the last four minutes were unwatchable.
This is life on the road for a young team that played skittishly at the worst possible time to betray a comeback that enabled the Wildcats to lead 57-46 with 8:52 remaining.
"The story for us is: Can we break through and become a tougher team, for longer periods, on defense?" Miller said. "Once again, it was a story of our team's inability to make tough, winning plays on defense."
The Beavers aren't a powerhouse or even close. They are 8-8 and can't claim to have had much misfortune. But they rallied to beat Arizona on Thursday for the simplest of reasons: They are older and more experienced as a group. Under duress they have more of a template of how to react.
Arizona is learning by its mistakes.
OSU coach Craig Robinson described his team's demeanor as "desperate" and the most desperate Beaver was senior center Roeland Schaftenaar who scored 22 points, which appeared to be a misprint on the statistics sheet. It seemed like he scored all 34 of OSU's points in the second half.
"He's 6-11, and it's hard to guard a 6-11 guy who can use both hands," said Robinson.
Using man-defense and later a zone, Arizona couldn't guard Schaftenaar effectively, ever, and especially down the stretch. His two blocked shots in the final ticks further decided the game.
"We have been dying for someone to step up like that," said Robinson. "When the lead got to 11 for Arizona, I saw maturity in our guys. I didn't see any panic. It was a masterpiece to watch the last few minutes."
Miller didn't use the word "masterpiece," but neither did he fail to examine the good things his team did to get in position to win. These are the rigors associated with trying to put a team together in such a short time.
The Wildcats have now lost games by anguishing scores of 78-76, 83-82, 61-56, 74-72, 56-50 and 67-64. That's six grinding losses in 17 games that, if not handled properly, can tear a team apart.
"What happened early tonight, our slow start, wasn't unexpected," Miller said. "You almost anticipate it happening in this situation."
The Beavers' 1-3-1 zone defense was so good at the start, so aggressive, that it seemed more like a 1-5-1. When the Beavers jumped to a 16-5 lead, UA scoring leader Derrick Williams had not yet touched the ball. Not even a sniff.
But rather than blow his stack and rail at his club, Miller used it as a teaching situation. He suspected the Beavers would be unable to continue their early intensity, and that once his team got used to the speed of OSU's defense - "we couldn't match that with our scout team in practice," said UA guard Kyle Fogg - the game slowly turned.
Arizona was the better team on the court for 30 of the 40 minutes, but, unfortunately, not in the last minute.
This is progress, I'm thinking. Slow, sometimes painful progress, but let's be serious: A lot of teams would have collapsed and lost 71-49 at Gill Coliseum on Thursday night. The Beavers had targeted Arizona, which was predictable.
"This came against a team that has had our number for a few years," Robinson said.
On OSU's winning play, junior guard Calvin Haynes, who has played in 76 college basketball games, dribbled up court, given the freedom to react to Arizona's defense and follow his instincts.
After playing more than 1,800 minutes of college basketball, Haynes didn't force the play but, rather, calmly spotted Lathen Wallace alone in the corner.
At the last possible second, Fogg had chosen to leave Wallace unguarded and help teammate Nic Wise stop Haynes.
As Fogg closed in, Haynes zipped a pass to Wallace for an uncontested, game-deciding three-pointer.
"In the end," Fogg said quietly, "it was mostly on us."
Arizona had lost another game it probably should have won. But stay tuned. Unless I miss my guess, it won't be long until it turns the other way.
Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 email@example.com