Like two evenly-matched boxers, the University of Arizona men’s basketball team stood toe-to-toe with the Colorado Buffaloes last night, as the teams traded the lead throughout an important conference game.
In the end, neither team could score the knockout punch and Arizona simply ran out of time when a Kevin Parrom shot at the buzzer missed the mark and the Buffs took the 64-63 win and moved ahead of the Wildcats in the Pac-12 standings.
The win was significant because it broke a three-way tie for fourth place in the conference between Arizona, Colorado, and Washington.
Colorado’s win, combined with a Washington victory over No. 2 Stanford last night, dropped the Cats to sixth place. Their 4-3 mark puts a team with high expectations this year on the verge of being a mediocre .500 team.
California and Oregon hold down the first-place spot, tied at 6-2.
But the interesting thing about last night’s game was that it couldn’t have been scripted any better. The teams were a mirror-image of each other and the actual outcome was just as unpredictable as the way it played out.
Both teams carried 4-2 conference records into the game and were one game apart in overall records, Arizona at 13-6 and Colorado at 12-6. The Cats’ RPI rating was 64, the Buffs’ was 63.
Colorado entered the game scoring just over 70 points per outing and allowing opponents just 62 points. Arizona was averaging 69.6 points a game, while giving up 61.8.
The stage was set for a game that was going to be a toss-up, played in front of a full house of 11,056 raucous fans at the Coors Event Center in Boulder. And it lived up to the billing from start to finish. Arizona entered the locker room at halftime with a thin four-point lead, shooting 44 percent from the field, while Colorado shot 42 percent.
They hadn’t met since November of 2009, but that game was even tighter. It took overtime for Arizona to win it, 91-87.
This time the Cats had every opportunity again to notch another victory. They pulled down a rebound with 24 seconds left in the game and Colorado just one point ahead.
But with no timeouts left, they had to work the clock for the final shot. Unable to penetrate the Colorado defense, the Cats turned to Kevin Parrom, who gave them their last lead with a critical layup, for the final shot. A three-point attempt from the right side failed as the buzzer sounded.
Jesse Perry, the 6’7″ senior forward, led all scorers with 20 points. But it wasn’t enough.
Arizona won the battle of the boards, out-rebounding the Buffs, 44-35. But it wasn’t enough.
The Cats’ defense held Colorado to 40.7 percent shooting from the field and allowed just four completions out of 17 attempts from behind the arc. But it wasn’t enough.
However, there is opportunity for redemption on the horizon.
The Buffaloes make the trek to Tucson for a Feb. 9 game and a chance for the Cats to even the score. There are just four games on the schedule before that contest arrives so, barring any injuries, there won’t be much change in either team.
And that offers Wildcat Nation the anticipation of another down-to-the-wire finish… and a chance to really rock McKale Center.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)