TUCSON, Ariz. – For those who entered this week believing that the Pac-12 race was a mere formality, let the opening night of conference play be a lesson in not counting ones chickens before they hatch.
After yet another slow start No. 3 Arizona once again found a way to win, fighting all the way back to knock off Colorado 92-83 in overtime. Mark Lyons led six Wildcats in double figures with 24 points and his free throws with 8.9 seconds remaining in regulation tied the game at 80.
All that did was take a game that seemed out of reach and turn it into a contest fans of both teams won’t soon forget. Sabatino Chen appeared to bank in a three-pointer as time expired, but the officials (after much deliberation) determined that the shot was released after the red light on the backboard went on.
Was there enough evidence on the video replay to overturn the call? You make the call. Here’s the video. Here are the pictures:
”If it’s the wrong call, I’m really, really sick to my stomach because we had guys in this locker room that deserved to win that game,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle told reporters.
The officials in charge of the proceedings didn’t have a good night at all to be frank, and that was the case well before the final sequence took place.
Whether or not the shot could have counted (official James Breeding reportedly said that the ball was still on Chen’s fingertips) is something that fans will go back and forth on for quite some time.
But what can’t be debated is the fact that Colorado once again struggled from the foul line in a close game (17-of-29 for the game), and that they had absolutely no momentum in the extra session.
Colorado was the team that jumped out of the gates ready to play, pushing their lead to as many as 13 points in the first half. However with Solomon Hill in foul trouble the Wildcats were able to claw back within striking distance, cutting the deficit to seven (34-27) at the half.
Xavier Johnson, making his first start of the season, scored ten of his 12 points in the first 20 minutes and as a team Colorado knocked down six of their nine shots from beyond the arc. Both he and Chen played their best games of the season, and while that is something the Buffaloes can build on there’s the issue of late-game execution that they must address.
Arizona’s rapidly becoming the cardiac kids of this basketball season, as they’ve found a way to survive on multiple occasions. While tonight’s outcome can be disputed, there’s no disputing the fact that there’s still much work to be done in the case of both teams.
And if this opener is a sign of what’s to come in Pac-12 play over the next two months, fasten your seat belts because this is going to be a wild ride.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.